Barber Shop Chronicles – Bristol Old Vic REVIEW

Deep conversations, fiery arguments and intense debates… oh and the occasional haircut. It’s all happening in African barbers across the globe. The Barber Shop Chronicles has booked into the Bristol Old Vic for a wash and blow dry after not one, but two, sold out runs at the National Theatre.

From the beginning the cast are full of energy as they encourage audience members on to the stage to get their haircut and dance with them to the DJ’s remix’s. Their vibe is infectious and I could have quite happily watched this joyous scene naturally unfold.

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The play transports you around the world to six different cities where conversations are happening in six different African barbers. You are given an insight into Peckham, Lagos, Kampala, Harare, Accra and Johannesburg all on the much anticipated day of the Championship League final between Chelsea and Barcelona.

Scenery of a mismatch of colourful sights, spinny hairdressers chairs and reversible gowns made up the majority of the set. It is all brought to life through manic scene changes as all members of the cast dance and sing around each other.

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Writer Inua Ellams offers an insight into such a vibrant and extensive culture. She has created powerful yet vulnerable characters, people you laugh with and sympathise with almost immediately.

I imagine one of the reasons why this play is as successful as it is, is due to the endless viewpoints it gives. Different ages and cultures give a range of perspectives on controversial topics such as development of racial language, expectations of masculinity and figures like Mugabe.

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As you watch on, the clock ticking and globe turning, the play gives you space for you to decide on your own stance on some of the topics touched upon, but with so much food to thought it’s not easy to solidify a view. The debates seem endless but with the conversations becoming more and more linked as they go on, there is just time for one more “Three men walk into a bar” joke before the curtain falls.

The Barbershop Chronicles is a clever, insightful and thoughtful take on a tucked away area of today’s culture that is not always seen by all. Political and powerful, this is a show NOT to be missed!

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