Review: ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ At The National Theatre

Published: Sunday 25th Jun 2017 by Sam

In the Black diaspora, the “barber shop” has become more than a transformative space.

Indeed, in many ways its end-product (a “fresh cut”) is often “added value” to its most powerful facet of being a public sphere for Black men.

It’s a debate space, a therapist’s room, a sports stadium, a cinema, and a religious pulpit.

Sewn into the scent of clipper oil and Afro hair products is a pervading portion of testosterone – warm in temperature and inviting more than intimidating.

It provides a hearty hotbed for conversations about love, life and lineage, as well as acting as a willing wall to lean on during times of hurt and hardship.

Playwright Inua Ellams draws on all of this for his critically acclaimed production ‘Barber Shop Chronicles.’

An intense and immersive offering, the play journeys from a barber shop in London, to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra.

A fusion of the hard-hitting and the humorous, the production dissects the semantics of Black masculinity and sets out to remould how it’s rationalised.

Through enlightened writing and powerful performances, ‘Chronicles’ succeeds in its intent. Sure it entertains, but it more crucially educates, empowers, and expands understanding of one of the most maligned groups in history.

A must see.


Following a sold-out initial run, ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ returns to The National Theatre this Fall. Click here for dates and details. 

[Photo credit: Marc Brenner]

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