Roundhouse Summer 2019
The party is already in progress when we arrive at the Roundhouse. The performance space is packed with people drinking, dancing, chatting and occasionally sitting in a barbershop chair for a quick haircut.
This is the pre-show to Inua Ellam's Barbershop Chronicles, a fast, funny and engaging play that takes us to the barbershops of five African countries and London, over one day in 2012 when Chelsea competed with Barcelona in the European Champions League.
These shops are
conversational hubs, where black males swap stories, talk about their
worries and speculate about the world.
In Uganda, a barber
customer against doing anything about a gay neighbour who he suspects
of stealing his cow, telling him 'It will be bad for business.'
men in a South African barbershop talk about the reasons they still
couldn't use the terms 'nigger' and 'kaffir' so associated with
slavery and apartheid, Simphiwe (Emmanuel Ighodaro), admits that
childhood poverty led him to allow white boys who paid him a dollar
to call him 'kaffir'.
A key talking point in
the play is the absence
of fathers. In the Three Kings shop in London, the young barber
Samuel (Mohammed Mansaray) suspects others of getting his father
A young man who never
knew his father is getting
a haircut on route to an audition for the role of a strong black man
and pondering what that quality might mean.
Sometimes a character
questions conventional views of public figures, with one claiming
Nelson Mandela failed South Africa by leaving black people 'still
prostrated' as 'the balance of economic power' is left with white
A cast of twelve, many playing multiple male characters, is lively and entertaining, even in the riveting musical dance sequences choreographed by Aline David that shift scenes from one country to another.
This is an exciting National Theatre, Fuel and Leeds Playhouse co-production in association with the Roundhouse that is to tour the UK.
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Review - Barbershop Chronicles - Roundhouse 2019