Barber Shop Chronicles at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
The party had already started as I made my way to my seat. Members of the audience were up on stage, dancing with the cast as African music filled the auditorium. A National Theatre, Leeds Playhouse and Fuel co-production, Barber Shop Chronicles has been taking the country by storm.

Inua Ellams took his inspiration from a flyer about a project to teacher barbers about the basics of counselling before bringing back 60 hours of recordings from six weeks of travelling throughout Africa, but this is basically a joyous show which celebrates Africa and its many cultures, and the back story is secondary to the tribal dancing, singing and music from various countries on that continent – not least because it is sometimes difficult to understand the accents.

It’s vibrant, high energy, full of warmth and humour, but it also gives an extraordinary insight into lives lived by Africans at home and in London. All life can be seen at the various barbers; a lot of it is small talk, about families, politics, sport, religion, race… and no-one is the star. It’s a team effort with every member of the cast making an impression under Bijan Sheibani’s direction.

Rae Smith’s set transports us to Africa with its exposed electric cables a feature, and a huge wire globe lighting up to show us where that particular barbers is located – Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa…  while Jack Knowles’ lighting creates the warmth of the African sun on one hand and the coldness of London on the other.

Barber Shop Chronicles is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh until Nov 9.
It then continues touring:
Nov 13-16: Nuffield Southampton Theatres
Nov 20-23: Leeds Playhouse
Image: Marc Brenner