There were early signs that Barber Shop Chronicles was going to be far from ordinary. Entering the theatre, cast members were strolling about, chatting in groups with loud music blaring, and soon they began to invite people onto the stage. A pair of teenage boys climbed up and sheepishly began throwing a few, rather half-hearted shapes. But then came reinforcements, flooding up the stage-stairs, sitting in barber's chairs, and having their hair "cut". A uniformed horde of
A pre-show carnival was the ideal way to warm up the crowd for what followed. Barber Shop Chronicles is a hectic, vibrant, rip-roaring production that transports the audience from
In writing the play, creator Inua Ellams distilled 60 hours of material recorded on a six week research trip into just under 2 hours. Though the cities are thousands of miles apart, the topics being discussed are remarkably similar. It's the day of
The ensemble cast are magnificent, each imbuing the production with infectious energy and physicality. It's difficult to pick out a single actor who stands out, especially given that each takes on multiple guises across the various cities. Samuel (Mohammed Mansaray) and Emmanuel (Anthony Ofoegbu) are the two characters who perhaps take the play into its most complex emotional territory. Samuel is a younger barber with deep-rooted anger over a family feud, in which shop-owner Emmanuel has played a part, and both Mansaray and Ofoegbu are excellent, as their characters run the gamut of emotions over the course of the play. Demmy Ladipo also deserves plaudits as a quick-talking, flashily-dressed wideboy who does a runner in
The scene changes are choreographed just as beautifully as the dancing - a wire frame globe swivels and a clock overhead spins round to indicate the change in time zones. Onstage, caster furniture barrelled about and barber's capes were whipped around matador-style to the tunes of Roots Manuva, Boy Better Know and Fuse ODG amongst others. When not required, cast members lined the edge of the stage in silence, as if awaiting their turn in the chair. Costumes were impeccable throughout, a blend of tracksuits, tribal patterns and beige chequered suits. The colours combine with the music and energy of the show and the effect is phenomenal - the show's final flourish left me grinning from ear to ear. Forget short back and sides: Barber Shop Chronicles is fresh, flamboyant and exhilarating.