Barbershop Chronicles

Congratulations to the NT on their exciting production of this intricate play. With the Dorfman in my favourite configuration ( audience on four sides of the stage ), this fast-moving show can switch like lightning between barbershops in Lagos, Accra, Kampala, Johannesburg, Harare and Peckham. Clever use of a suspended globe and advertising signs scattered around the set mean that the audience never becomes disorientated when the show jumps from country to country.

Articles in the programme focus on the mental health of young black males but the play seems to be about much more than that. It strikes a lovely balance between light-hearted crosstalk and some passionate and serious discussion of a multitude of topics.

The structure is complex and you have to stay alert to catch the links between the strands and see how the whole relates to the parts but it works brilliantly. I loved it.

Two Shows That Deserve A London Transfer

The Exorcist

Seems like a crazy idea to stage this most unstageable of movies but that’s what Birmingham Rep. did towards the end of last year and it really worked. All your favourite bits from the film were there – projectile vomiting, flying beds and a 360 degree rotating head. Adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier from the novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by Sean Mathias, the show had all the tension of the movie and the atmosphere in the packed house was electric. It’s a while since I heard so much screaming in a theatre. The visual effects and magic ( Duncan McClean and Ben Hart ) were spectacular. This is the sort of show that will bring younger audiences to the theatre and, if it hits London, will run and run.

Caroline or Change

This was presented recently at the Minerva studio theatre in Chichester and has at its centre two bravura performances from Sharon D. Clarke¬† as Caroline and ( at the performance I saw ) Daniel Luniku as young Noah Gellman. It is a sung through musical by Tony Kushner, directed by Michael Longhurst. It is hard to convey the flavour of the piece but if I tell you that the cast list includes Me’sha Bryan as The Washing Machine, Ako Mitchell as The Bus and Angela Caesar as The Moon you might get an idea. I think this is the second UK production of the show. It passed me by the first time. I don’t understand why it has not yet hit the big time in this country. It’s not a show for the big West End musical palaces but in a suitable venue ( The Dorfmann, The Southwark Playhouse, the Chocolate Factory ) it would be this year’s hot ticket.

November 2017 update:

The London transfers have happened.

The Exorcist opened at the Phoenix. Caroline or Change opens at Hampstead in March 2018.