Maynard Eziashi is an original cast member of Inua Ellams’ hugely successful Barber Shop Chronicles, which returns to London for the first time since it premiered in 2017. After two sold out runs at The National and a UK Tour, the production went on to visit Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada.

Maynard was involved even before the play’s debut at The National, “back in 2014 I was asked to help workshop a play, then it was called Fast Cuts and Snapshots,” he explains, “It was just an hour long and we took it to Glasgow for its first showing.”

Maynard admits he was a little worried about how the play might be received outside of London, but says “I soon discovered it had a universal theme, it was easy to access and the audience in Glasgow enjoyed it very much.”

I realised this was going to be something special

Fast forward to 2017 Maynard was asked to return to the production, Barber Shop Chronicles had now developed in to what it is today, “now the play encompassed the African countries and straight away I realised this was going to be something special,” says Maynard, “especially when we had the cast put together, twelve black men performing in a play with music and songs, I thought ‘yeah this will be wonderful.’”

Being a cast comprised entirely of black men has made the difference for Maynard, “normally there would be two or three people of colour in the cast, but here I’m working with eleven other black actors, and that means I can really be myself, and I think that’s what the play is about too, you get to see black people be who they are without having to censor themselves.  I don’t have to worry what I say to the other actors because they will understand and that makes me feel very comfortable.”

Barber Shop Chronicles c Marc Brenner
Maynard Eziashi in Barber Shop Chronicles c Marc Brenner

Maynard says he knows how fortunate he’s been, getting to tour the world with Barber Shop Chronicles, “It was a great experience, and just reconfirms how universal the story is, the audiences in all those countries really loved it and appreciated it, especially the minority communities of those areas, they really felt like it spoke to them.”

Barber Shop Chronicles begins in a London barbers’ shop, before the story moves to different barber shops across Africa, “It sees the barber’s chair as a therapists chair, where people are able to talk freely. I think it speaks to so many people because the same level of freedom and intimacy can be found in a ladies hair salon, or a nail bar.”

Maynard is looking forward to bringing it back to London, “I think there’s a familiarity with a lot of the characters, because London is so diverse and cosmopolitan, they are used to these types of characters, and because of that you get a different kind of response. And also, at Roundhouse we get to perform in the round, which works really well for this play.”

wherever we go we have outreach initiatives, so I’m excited by what’s all happening at Roundhouse

The run will be supported by a series of events at The Roundhouse, called Fades, Braids and Identity, Maynard says “wherever we go we have outreach initiatives, so I’m excited by what’s all happening at Roundhouse, I think it’ll be a lot of fun, we’ll even have a barber there so you can actually get a haircut too.”

Barber Shop Chronicles is now on its fifth-generation cast, and Maynard has enjoyed being part of them all, “everyone brings their own flavour to the pot, and that’s given me lots of new things to work with each time.”

But no matter which cast he’s worked with, Maynard says he’s been amazed by the audience response, “after the show I would speak to people who I wouldn’t naturally have expected to taken something from the story, but I’ve seen them in tears, and I’ve spoken to them and they’ve said there’s been a particular character or scene that has resonated with them, and that its brought back so many memories, and that has been lovely.”

Barber Shop Chronicles has music, singing and dancing, but Maynard says it’s not a musical, but he wouldn’t exactly call it a starlight drama either, “I like to call it ‘edutainment’ you can learn something at the same time as being entertained, it’s a very fun evening indeed.”

Book Barber Shop Chronicles Tickets

Barber Shop Chronicles is at Roundhouse 18th July to 24th August as part of a tour, full tour details can be found here.

Main image credit: Marc Brenner

Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly

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