Following critically acclaimed seasons at the National Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Barber Shop Chronicles is back at the National Theatre until January 2018.
This dynamic new play leaps from a barber shop in Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. Newsroom, political platform, local hot spot, confession box, preacher-pulpit and football stadium. For generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.
Inua Ellams born in Nigeria in 1984 is a UK-based poet, playwright and performer. Ellams has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre and the BBC. His one-man show The 14th Tale was the awarded an Edinburgh Fringe First at the Edinburg International Festival in 2009 and later transferred to the Royal National Theatre. Barber Shop Chronicles was longlisted the Alfred Fagon Award in 2017.
Ellams has an instinctive feel for the polyphonous rhythms of dialogue, and the way his characters use language is both a texture and a theme of this play, which threads in debates on Nigerian Pidgin and the use of the N word with casual ease. He skilfully maintains control of his sprawling cast, although only slowly do individual relationships become distinct and characters gain depth and pathos.
Bijan Sheibani stages the piece with an exhilarating dynamism in this brilliantly acted co-production between the National Theatre, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Fuel. The audience sits round the perimeter and the changes of scene have a beauty and wit of their own – sometimes fully choreographed as a formation dance (barbers flapping out their capes like toreadors, etc) or in a soft chant of place names, the country indicated by the lit-up area on the great wire globe that hangs above Rae Smith's set.