A vibrant insight into a space at the heart of a culture, Barber Shop Chronicles is sharp, provocative and a truly engaging watch. An odd experience to not be in the room in a show that takes care to develop atmosphere, some of Inua Ellams’ intensity and liveness is lost.
The audience sits, in Barber Shops across nations, witnessing the storied setting of a Barber Shop and what it means to be at the heart of the black community. The sense of community and immersion is well-executed, the actors sit in the front row when not performing in the round. We see sharp banter, smart comedic timing and innovative dance sequences that string together the collage of stories and experiences.
No time is wasted in getting into the questions, ideas, and themes of the show; arguably, this takes away from some subtlety, however Ellams’ dexterous Brechtian approach make the questions cogent and fit into the atmosphere created. This would not work if it were not for the excellent characterisation across the board; stand outs from Fisayo Akinade (Samuel/Wallace/Timothy) broods and grows into an intriguing complicated character who shines in the final scenes, along with Cyril Nri (Emmanual) and Peter Bankole (Fabrice/Olawale).
The role of language in identity is at the heart of this play, and it is in Ellams’ consideration of this, that the show is at its strongest. Ellams writes himself into tricky situations, then shifts and twists into further intrigue. What is initially a fleeting moment in a Barber Shop, becomes a snapshot into life at the heart of a community and what comes with that. A Chelsea vs Barcelona game strings the narrative together and Ellams slowly draws links between experience and time to great effect.
The show is a well-rounded journey that peels back the layers of a community. The sound design is excellent, blending cultural landmarks into the show and moving things along swiftly in a well-paced show.
The NT shows work well as a fundraiser, and it is so important, as the creative industries are facing a crisis, we must support where we can. 4/5
Review written by Tom Carter.
Barber Shop Chronicles was originally shown from Monday 20th November 2017 until Friday 9th January 2018 at the National Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…
Barbershop Chronicles is currently streaming on YouTube until Thursday 21st May, 7pm.