Reviewed by Jenny Seymour
In usual fashion we arrived just on time for the start of this production. I really didn’t know what to expect and had visions of “Desmond’s” from the 80s…
We arrived to the cast on stage mingling with the audience – sitting them in the barber’s chairs and dancing with the DJ. Yes, there was a sound system on stage! Already I was bought in! A great atmosphere and classic tunes. I defy you not to be dancing in your seats to the beats throughout the show.
The set is amazing – the use of colour and lights to turn your attention to certain parts of the set as it develops and the huge metal globe high above the stage lighting up the part of the world that each set represents.
The scene changes are incredible – the a capella voices of the cast taking us on a journey to the country in question. The traditional African music is sung beautifully. Each member of the cast had a fabulous soulful voice. You almost felt like applauding the scene changes! You are taken from a small hut in Lagos using a wind-up generator for power, right through to a barber shop in London. As we see from the first frieze scene (which is very well done!), everyone is drawn together by the Champions League final taking place at the same day – not sure why everyone would support Chelsea though (he he!).
From the moment we start our journey in Lagos, the comedy kicks in! It was hilarious and had us all laughing raucously. However, this isn’t just a comedy – it is politically charged with some really educational and interesting insights into Black African history both in Africa and the UK. Different views on Mugabe, Mandela and other African presidents. Did they do what they should for their people or did they sell them down the river?
The tales of each country and the importance of the role of the barbers as counsellors, confidants and friend are fabulous! For example, in the Lagos barbershop with the wind-up generator, actually young boys would come to charge their phones as not everyone has their own electricity at home. The barber knows they use him in this way, but his shop then becomes so important to the community.
The play depicts the importance of the elders in every community, but also how that respect is now earned rather than being beaten into you. The importance of the barber shop as a meeting place, counselling service, family is shown again from the very first scene. “Open up it’s an emergency!” Wallace cries. The barber is woken from sleep at 6am willing to help – only to find that the emergency is a haircut! Needed for a job interview Wallace so desperately wants to be successful in!
All of the cast played their parts so well that I don’t really want to pick any one individual performance out, but Demmy Ladipo was hilarious – so well cast. To the lay person, the accents sounded spot on. At times you may have to concentrate to understand the Pidgin language, but that element of language is so important as a way of communicating and preserving many cultures. Many cultures brought together with the aim of earning a living and returning home, but many stayed. They all needed a way of communicating directly with each other without having to learn each other’s language and Pidgin was the result.
What I love about this production is that it incorporates what is great about people brought together in a community. It is so well-written to draw all of the characters and countries together. Go and get a ticket to see for yourself!
I defy you not to be dancing in your seat to the beats throughout the Barber Shop Chronicles! The tales of each country and the importance of the role of the barbers as counsellors, confidants and friend are fabulous! Go and get a ticket quick!
Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).
Barber Shop Chronicles is at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from 22 May to 1 June 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Please note: If you park in the local Q Park car park, remember to claim your 1 hour FREE ticket from one of the members of the theatre staff before you leave.
Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000