As you enter the Dorfman Theatre, laid out in-the-round, the cast are buzzing around the stage, talking to the audience, giving free trims, jigging along to the music and having fun. As one of the characters says, the barber shop is Africa’s equivalent to a local pub and in this unique setting, excitement and anticipation is already building for Bijan’ Sheibani’s production.

The play is set across 6 barbershops in 6 different cities – London, Kampala, Lagos, Harare, Johannesburg and Accra – with all stories and locations being sewn together by African music, awesome choreography courtesy of movement director Aline David and the live Champions League Final between Chelsea and Barcelona dictating the time of the event.

The most riveting dramatic action is evident early on between Emmanuel played by the wonderful Cyril Nri and rebellious Samuel (Fisayo Akinade). Emmanuel runs the barber shop in London which used to be owned by Samuel’s dad. However, something has happened in the past that creates a fascinating tension played perfectly by the actors, despite a visit from the hilarious Mr. Lover Lover wannabe played by Hammed Animashaun.

Despite typical conversations of football and women, the main themes are identity and community and so the play explores what it means to be an African man. The story lacks clarity at times – it is difficult to distinguish between the different locations which aren't always clearly delineated. This doesn't affect the pace of the play which builds up wonderfully to two beautiful, intimate scenes, one of which includes a passionate turn from the absorbing Patrice Naiambana as Simphiwe.

Barber Shop Chronicles is a wonderful play and one of those rare pieces of theatre that has mass appeal. I challenge anyone not to enjoy a couple of hours immersed in this rich, vibrant world.
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