CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Review: Barber Shop Chronicles, at National Theatre

23 June, 2017 — By Howard Loxton

Fisayo Akinade (Samuel) and Sule Rimi (Benjamin) in Barber Shop Chronicles. Photo: Marc Brenner

INUA Ellams’ new play at the National Theatre is set in barbershops in six different cities – Lagos, Kampala, Harare, Johannesburg, Accra – and South London. These aren’t places you just go to just for a haircut but somewhere to hang out, catch up, even watch your team on the TV.

It kicks off with a youngster going to a job interview demanding a spruce up before opening time. The Men’s talk goes on to range across all topics from women, politics, jokes and confessions. Sometimes across the world they are all doing the same thing: watching Barcelona being beaten by Chelsea.

Attention keeps coming back to the British shop where Emmanuel (Cyril Nri) is running the place for his best friend who’s in prison. The friend’s son Samuel (Fisayo Akinade) is giving him a tough time – but there are things young Sam doesn’t know about. Their feuding in London, with Jamaican Lothario Winston (Anthony Welsh) trying to keep the peace provides the most developed personal story but the father-son relationship is a per­vading feature in this presenta­tion of ideas of masculinity.

The whole cast deliver an invigorating vitality and Bijan Sheibani’s fast moving production gains enormous impetus from Aline David’s between scene choreography. Nearly two hours non-stop and it leaves you wanting more: it’s a joy.

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