By Dominique Mobley ’22
Barber Shop Chronicles, written by Inua Ellams, explores and depicts the importance of the barber shop in the lives of Black men, regardless of where they come from – be it Johannesburg or London, Accra or Lagos, Kampala or Harare.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the play was the universality of the topics discussed in the shops, which created a cohesion between each of the men in each of the cities, even if they were thousands of miles – and cultures – apart.
While the topics of conversation varied from the serious to the silly – whether about the use of racial slurs or the outcome of the soccer match between Chelsea and Barcelona – Ellam kept the tone lighthearted, inserting various pieces of upbeat music and dance numbers.
As a young African American woman myself, I enjoyed the lengths Ellam went in telling a story that expressed that, while there are differences between the Black experience in Africa as opposed to the Black experience in Britain (and as opposed to other parts of the world, as well), we all have much more in common than we think in how we think, live, and go through our days. The barber shop is a vessel for these commonalities, as Black men share their worries, their struggles, their dreams, their faith, and their counsel.
The stories told in Barber Shop Chronicles came together nicely, as though they were pieces in a puzzle, and with an incredible ending to boot. The acting was hilarious and convincing, with actors switching between more than one role seamlessly.
Audiences of all backgrounds will take something away from the show and gain insight into the global Black male experience. Audiences get to explore a day from continent to continent, country to country, story to story, and barber shop to barber shop.
This show is a must-see.
Dominique is a first-year Dartmouth student and a member of Arts Ambassadors, a club for students who like to get together and see performances.