Sheffield theatre show creates a world of stories in Barber Shop Chronicles

A new show brings the unique atmosphere of sociable gathering places for generations of black men to the stage.

By julia.armstrong1
Tuesday, 07 May, 2019, 11:12
Barber Shop Chronicles in rehearsal

Spanning one day, six cities and a thousand stories, Barber Shop Chronicles at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield shows how for generations, African men have gathered in barber shops.

Sometimes they have haircuts, sometimes they listen, more often than not they talk. Barber shops are confession boxes, political platforms, preacher-pulpits and football pitches... places to go for unofficial advice, and to keep in touch with the world.

Here, cast member Michael Balogun speaks about the show in a Q&A.

Can you tell us about the play and your character?Barber Shop Chronicles is a play about black men in different barbers, in London and throughout Africa, and about barber shops being a safe space for men to speak freely and openly about relationships, politics, what a man is, what a man isn’t, as well as differences in cultures and religions being discussed.I have two characters, the first is Winston, who is Jamaican and works at Emmanuel’s barber shop in London, and Shoni, who is South African.Is the barber shop culture described familiar to you? Do you have a favourite barber's that you go to, to hang out?100%. There’s a barber shop in my neck of the woods, in South London, that I go to sometimes just to watch the football.

It’s a safe space I feel comfortable in – a place where you don’t have to do anything but sit down and talk.

I have about two or three barbers that I go to, we watch football, some times we have a drink – there’s just a lot of banter and friendly chit chat.Why do you think this has become such an important thing for so many men?I think it probably always has been important – I think because it’s so intimate.

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You have someone close into your personal space and that gets really comfortable if you’ve been going there for a while, it’s easier for them to speak to you.

There’s also something in going into an environment and coming out looking better, there’s trust and intimacy which leads to a sense of security – it’s almost like therapy.

You also go to barber shops and see other people from your community – it’s a rare occasion for you to be in a confined space with whatever’s going on in the world being up for discussion.Why is it important that people should come and see the show?I think it’s important because 1. There are not a lot of shows that represent this demographic, and 2. A lot of people have stereotypical ideas of black men but this show demonstrates that we are nuanced and we are very many kinds of people.

We have opinions and speak on intellectual levels – it’s an opportunity to be a fly on the wall.

I think it’s also important for black people to see it – it’s very easy to forget about your culture and where you come from. You feel a real connection to the text.Will this be your first visit to Sheffield?This will be my first time in Sheffield! Sheffield is new to me but I like the North – it has warmth to it.

Barbner Shop Chronicles is at the Crucible, Sheffield from May 22 to June 1. Tickets: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk