Behind the bravado and masculinity that is associated with barber shops writer Inua Ellams manages to weave a tale of vulnerability through the varied characters that frequent the barber shop. Carefully written dialogue reminds us Africa is a continent with varied cultural and political views with references to Mugabe and Mandela. Central to this tale that spans generations and the breadth of Africa visiting barber shops in London, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa, actors Cyril Nri (Emmanuel) and Fisayo Akinade (Samuel) characters play the uncle and nephew who have a contentious relationship brought about by Akinade’s absent father. A wealth of acting talent, Nri performs like he always does moulding into character. Delightful moments of entertainment where song and dance are used to evoke the passing of time and place. RSA trained Patrice Naiambana plays three characters (Tokunbo, Paul and Simphiwe) providing comedic value as Tokunbo the simple Nigerian barber. The political vein of African and West Indian “relationships” is touched upon lightly with the Jamaican barber (Anthony Welsh). There is dance, there is music, classic RnB tunes combined with Afrobeat dance and song woven into a deeper story of how men share or don’t share their stories, their dreams, politics, all in the intimate setting of Barber Shop Chronicles. I think Ellams achieved what he set out to do to, provide a thought provoking piece of theatre. An all star cast includes Sule Rimi, Kwame Odoom, Abdul Salis, David Webber, Hammed Animashaun, Maynard Eziashi and Peter Bankole.
Barber Shop Chronicles is on at the National Theatre until 8th of July to book tickets please go to: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/barber-shop-chronicles
Image credit: Fisayo Akinade (Samuel) and Sule Rimi (Benjamin) photo: Marc Brenner