Word on the street is that The Barber Shop Chronicles is one of the best plays, not only of the decade, but of all time.
The Guardian recently named it one of ’50 best theatre shows of the 21st century’ and the good news is it’s coming to Oxford’s Playhouse from Wednesday.
Set in the modern day, the play leaps from barber shops in Peckham, Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra over the course of a single day.
It first opened at the the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, winning a Fringe First, touringthe UK and then Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada.
So what can we expect? Micah Balfour who plays a Jamaican barber in Peckham and a journalist in South Africa said that the play is based on a simple concept, because Afro Caribbean hair salons are a traditional place for men to gather and enjoy in-depth conversations about world events, opinions while cracking jokes.
“The Barber Shop Chronicles are all about banter, but the play is also very poignant because every barber shop offers a really interesting stage for its customers to put forward their ideas and have a voice. Where they don’t have to hold their tongues,
“But yes humour is another big part of it. And the audience gets on board really quickly because the play is basically about human stories, which we can all relate to.”
Now back on tour, Micah says The Barber Shop Chronicles is perhaps more relevant now than ever.
“Its about ideas and political viewpoints, and shines light on different ways of thinking, so it’s really fascinating,” he promises.
Micah has been an actor now for 14 years, but despite numerous TV and theatrical roles under this belt, he was absolutely delighted when he got the part, because the play’s reputation preceded it.
“It’s such a wonderful piece to be involved in so I feel privileged to be a part of this journey. It’s what everyone is talking about,” he tells me.
“The audience’s response is incredible, and seeing what touches them and what they take from it is wonderful to watch.”
So does he go to a barber shop in Catford in London where he’s from? “Yes but not for a while because it takes 3-4 hours every time,” he laughs. “It’s a long process. But there is always so much energy there, and that translates into the show, it’s a very similar experience. Because you get characters from all walks of life coming in, and everyone has a voice and isn’t intimidated about saying what they think, so that part of the play is very authentic.”
“And with the political climate the way it is in this country, the more we are able to listen to other people and realise we aren’t so different after all, the better – we are much more similar than we might think, and that brings people together, whether you are Sikh or Muslim, Polish or Afro-Caribbean.”
And then he pauses: “I’m making it sound quite heavy, but the wonderful thing about The Barber Shop Chronicles is that at the end it’s very uplifting. It’s not depressing.
“It will make you laugh and cry, to think differently about things at the end, to be more open-minded. But it’s very funny as well, and is has such a pace – there is so much energy exuding from this play.”
I’m in. See you there if you can get a ticket, but hurry because tickets are selling out fast.
The Barber Shop Chronicles run from Wednesday-Saturday at Oxford Playhouse.
oxfordplayhouse.com or 01865 305305.