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REVIEW: Barber Shop Chronicles proves itself as theatre that's a cut above as Inua Ellams' play about masculinity, race and sanctuary opens at Eden Court, Inverness in style

By Kyle Walker

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Barber Shop Chronicles

Eden Court, Inverness


JOYFUL, high-octane, high-energy and offering up one hell of a spectacle – and that was just how one could describe the scenes before the play had actually started.

What felt like half of the audience had taken to the stage, dancing and taking selfies with the cast while the sound of contemporary rap, dub and reggae blasted around the Empire Theatre.

I have never experienced a play opening quite like this – this breaking down of the boundaries between audience and performer can be woven into the narrative or structure of a piece, but I’ve never experienced it as an introduction before.

It set the tone well for the following 105 minutes– that no matter how intense or probing or dramatic this production may end up becoming, it was still primarily a celebration and an open space to celebrate.

And so it was as Barber Shop Chronicles transported Eden Court around six barbers – one in London and five across Africa – to provide snapshots, vignettes and examinations of life for and by the black male experience.

All the cast are superb, bringing to life the multiple characters and playwright Inua Ellams’ unpretentious, grounded dialogue.

One can forget at points we are watching fiction unfurl before us, so realistic do the characters and their conversations seem. They banter, discuss, and dissect everything from Pidgin English to the multiple facets and legacy of fatherhood – a recurring theme within the play – to the Chelsea versus Barcalona football match that weaves between the six shops throughout the play.

The actors bring to life the disarming frankness behind these conversations –each of them conveying an openness of these men talking about their fears, their worries and their traumas.

Eden Court have brought must-see theatre to the north of Scotland – comedic, challenging and compelling artistry. It is exactly the sort of engaging, entertaining and educative production that deserves to be celebrated. KW

Barber Shop Chronicles continues at Eden Court tonight and tomorrow. For more info or to book tickets, go to www.eden-court.co.uk

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