The Barbershop Chronicles is a new play by Inua Ellams following groups of men based in barber shops across the world that discusses masculinity within black male communities. The play takes place around a Chelsea v Barcelona football match and travels between barber shops in Accra, Lagos, Kampala, Harare, Johannesburg and Peckham. Over the course of two hours we see how relationships between the characters enhance or collapse and how barber shops are used as safe spaces for men to discuss the effect their relationships have on themselves. I’ve never seen a show like this before, particularly one that discusses men’s mental health and I’m very glad the National Theatre produced the play and gave the show a space.
I feel like the National has a reputation for being quite pretentious and only putting on plays that are tailored towards to upper class rich white people. But by putting on shows like The Barbershop Chronicles and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, the National is slowly breaking down the stigma, I just think a lot of people don’t know about it. So I’m very happy to see The Barbershop Chronicles is heading back to the National in November as well as a run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in between.
When I walked into the Dorfman, I knew I was in for a treat. About 15 minutes before the show started, the cast came on to the floor and were pulling people out of the audience to give them haircuts as if they were in the barbers. The performance I attended was the second to last in the initial run, which also happened to be the day of London Pride so the spirit was extra strong in the auditorium.
The play was heartfelt and emotional as well as being incredibly funny. It’s very much an ensemble piece and all of the actors fitted together like a beautiful tapestry especially as multiple actors in the cast played more than one role. I really enjoyed watching the show and I can’t wait to book my ticket for the show again in November.
The Barbershop Chronicles will run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 12th to 29th July and will return to the National Theatre from the 29th November. For more information visit https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/barber-shop-chronicles
Until next time