Barber Shop Chronicles
In a co-production between Fuel, the National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse, the Royal Exchange and Contact present the latest of this season’s productions – Barber Shop Chronicles. Inua Ellams insightful play involves one day, two teams and six locations. During the 2 hour single act production, we travel from Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos, and Accra. Each location a barber shop; each barber, each customer with a story to tell; each story intertwined with another.
Rae Smith’s atmospheric design perfectly captures the vibrancy and community of this barber shop world. Entering the theatre space necessitates joining the party. A chaos of activity as the audience are encouraged to take a seat in one of the barber’s chairs; pose for photos; dance to the tunes. A giant wire-frame globe hanging centre stage provides geographic guidance, illuminating each country as we travel across Africa, each journey accompanied by a harmony of male-voice African song – powerful ensemble moments from the cast. Bijan Sheibani’s direction keeps the action moving, but the pace feels sluggish about halfway through making the evening feel a little long, coming down 20 minutes after the advertised end time. And whilst the accents are authentically African there were moments when clarity was lost. That aside, this is an excellent production that provides a fascinating insight into the role of the barber. It’s not just about styling the man, it’s about creating an intimate atmosphere that allows the man to talk. Whether that conversation is about the Chelsea v Barcelona match being broadcast across all the locations, politics, family life or the stresses of work, the chair becomes the confessional box, the barber becomes the counsellor: listening, prompting, advising.
This is a man’s world, a world of strong black men, but is the man who beats his child any stronger than the one who plucks his eyebrows? Is physical strength more powerful than inner strength? Book an appointment at the barber shop to find out.
More details and to book via here