Barber Shop Chronicles welcomes audiences into the Crucible Theatre with the cast already on stage. You can pop down and sit in a barber’s chair, listen to the music blasting from the sound system, take selfies, enjoy a chat, have a dance – you’re welcome here. This welcome sets the tone for writer Inua Ellams’ subject matter – the special status of barber shops as sacred spaces where men can yes, get a haircut, but where they can also find understanding and community.
Barber Shop Chronicles is fuelled by the 60 hours of recordings that Ellams captured over the course of six weeks travelling through Africa. Those recordings have been distilled into an engaging play that serves up a series of snapshots from barber’s chairs across Lagos, Accra, Kampala, Harare and Johannesburg, as well as London in the UK.
Each scene is deftly executed by this talented cast, who switch between a wide variety of characters and overlapping storylines, delving into topics including black masculine identity, father and son relationships, language and culture, and the uniting force of Chelsea Football Club. The scenes are bookended by a burst of dancing and choral music to let us know which barber shop location we’re being whisked away to next. What becomes clear though, is that whether in London or in Lagos, the barber shop floor is a safe and vital space where all topics and opinions are open for discussion – where there’s room for anger and heartache, as well as for jokes.
Both funny and thought-provoking, Barber Shop Chronicles is a play that is absolutely brimming with life and a real joy to watch.
- Words by
- Emma Liasides
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