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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Three guys and a girl return with the tale of a Catalan matador who inherits his father’s Norfolk barbershop. Expect laughs, tears and stampeding cows – all in four part harmony.
Barbershopera II review
Poor old barbershop. As an entertainment it seems as contemporary as plate spinning or repeatedly smacking yourself on the head with a tin tray.
Valiantly trying to turn back the tide are the talented young quartet of Barbershopera, not taking themselves at all seriously with this good-natured comic romp set in the, ahem, cut-throat world of hairdressing.
This demanding four-voice musical starts fairly soberly, raising the spectre that it’s not going to be too far from the twee Oxbridgey image that pretty much did for the close-harmony form. But it’s not long before the formality yields to a spirited, silly, but wonderfully sung epic tale, realised on a credit crunch budget.
The all-too-conveniently intertwining plot concerns Esteve, a flamboyant Spanish matador transported to the sleepy village of Shavingham, where he finds he has inherited his estranged father’s barber shop, and must now avenge his death through a dramatic ‘cut-off’ with the poncy owner of a rival unisex salon with only two people to teach him the art of hairdressing – the female town cryer/love interest/aspiring seal sanctuary owner and a man with a morbid fear of scissors.
Such unlikely storyline is pretty much the only thing the quartet have lifted from opera, despite their name. It provides all the requisite melodramatic elements: the couple who hate each other at first though they are clearly destined to be together; the conflict that will be resolved in a single dramatic event; and the swaggering but ultimately heroic central character.
All this nonsense is handled with a deft, light touch, with every scene infused with a playful spirit that flirts with the knockabout but stays (reasonably) credible. Likewise, the brisk script contains some of the comedy elements you might expect – jibes about unsophisticated rural life, song pastiches, unsubtle innuendo from the lascivious Latin lover – but they are carefully rationed and done with great dollops of affectionate likeability.
Technically, it’s as tight as a drum, with the four accomplished singers producing an impressively focussed a cappella soundtrack, while still having enough fun with their preposterous story to make for an entertaining 80 minutes. It’s a cross between farce, surreal comedy and cabaret – a sort of Follicles Bergere, if I can be permitted a second hairdressing pun.
Robert Castell, who co-wrote the show with Tom Sadler, steals every scene his Esteve is in, thanks to his expressive features and clown’s sensibilities towards physical humour; while Lara Stubbs, the only female member of the troupe, has a deliciously underplayed charisma. Sadler and Pete Sorel-Cameron have more supporting roles, but still demonstrate a versatility and engaging stage presence.
The fast-paced, tautly directed (by Sarah Tipple) show keeps the action, the gags and the general nonsense coming – while ensuring the story retains a genuine heart to keep you absorbed throughout. With remarkably accomplished and effortlessly enjoyable comedy such as this, barbershop might just regain some of its long-lost kudos.
|Date of live review: Sunday 10th Jan, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
I saw this show on Jan 8th. It is totally brilliant in it's performance, writing and allround expertise. you are going to be laughing alot,aswell as the odd tear, so be prepared! BRAVO!
The funniest and most original show I have seen in a long time.