THIS vibrant, thought provoking and invigorating piece begins with what can only be described as an impromptu party, with members of the audience invited on stage to dance, have a “trim” or be warmly welcomed by a cast on a mission to make sure the audience leaves the RET feeling well and truly entertained. Even I was “fist pumped.”
In a way this party atmosphere lulls you into a false sense of security as some pretty serious stuff is talked about in a number of barber’s shops, from locations ranging from London to Lagos to Johannesburg. All these establishments cater largely for African men.
These are places in which the clientele let off steam and become pretty hot under the collar themselves when they talk everything from the emotional vacuum left by absent fathers to race and politics.
While Inua Ellams treats us to some thoughtful and at times wickedly funny dialogue there were occasions when I felt it was a case of “issue overkill.” For a play of one and three quarter hours this felt pretty epic.
In the London shop, in which the audience spends most of its time, we discover Samuel holds a bitter grudge against his father’s friend Emmanuel, believing him to be instrumental in his dad’s fall from grace. This is all expertly played by Mohammed Mansaray, a young actor of some promise, and another RET newbie, Anthony Ofoegbu. At times I felt I could actually reach out and touch the tension between the two of of them.
Director Bijan Sheibani serves up a production that is energetic and invigorating and a real antidote to the miserable dark nights. Ellams also makes the audience think, something of a rarity in these days of safe, box office friendly theatre.
Until March 23. The box office is on 0161 833 9833. Star rating - *** Photo by Marc Brenner.