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Inua Ellams' Barber Shop Chronicles to tour UK from Spring 2019

KATE McGrath, Director of Fuel, has confirmed that Inua Ellams’ highly acclaimed play, Barber Shop Chronicles, will tour the UK from March 2019.

The UK tour will be supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

This support will help the production to attract new, young and diverse audiences with a minimum of 10% of all available tickets across the entire tour available for free via local engagement initiatives aimed at young people who traditionally wouldn’t attend theatre performances.

Newsroom, political platform, local hot-spot, confession box, preacher-pulpit and football stadium – for generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world.

This dynamic play journeys from a barber shop in London, to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.

Kate McGrath, Director of Fuel, and Inua Ellams met in 2008, after McGrath saw what became Ellams’ first theatre show, The 14th Tale, at Battersea Arts Centre. Fuel helped Ellams develop his debut play and produced it, premiering it at the Edinburgh Festival, winning a Fringe First, touring it in the UK and internationally and presenting it at the National Theatre.

Since that first meeting, Fuel has worked closely with Ellams, producing Untitled, Knight Watch, Long Song Goodbye, Black T-shirt Collection, The Spalding Suite, An Evening with an Immigrant, and now Barber Shop Chronicles. Fuel is also currently co-producing Ellams’ Half-God of Rainfall with Kiln Theatre in association with Birmingham Rep, which will open in April 2019, and Ellams’ Three Sisters with The National Theatre, which will open in autumn 2019.

Kate McGrath said: “Everyone at Fuel is thrilled about this tour. We are hugely proud of this joyous and soulful production of Inua’s important and life-affirming play. We are particularly excited, given Fuel’s deep and longstanding dedication to national touring, to be working in partnership with a really strong range of venues and partners across the UK to bring this show to the widest possible audience around the country. It’s a brilliant opportunity, in particular, to develop Fuel’s commitment to growing young and diverse audiences for contemporary theatre nation-wide.”

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “We are delighted to further develop our partnership with Fuel through the tour of this brilliant production which made such a huge impact on its first outing in Leeds. It’s terrific that more audiences will have the chance to experience the show throughout the UK and more so that Leeds Playhouse audiences another chance to experience it after a hugely successful response internationally.

“The story has roots in Leeds and the Playhouse is in the unique position on the journey of the show of being both an originating co-producer and a venue for the upcoming tour. We can’t wait to share a production which continues to be admired and loved by warm and generous audiences around the world, especially as part of our “Welcome Back” Season following our redevelopment project.”

The production is directed by Bijan Sheibani and designed by Rae Smith, with lighting design by Jack Knowles, movement direction by Aline David and sound design by Gareth Fry. Casting will be announced in due course.

The tour will visit Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in partnership with Contact (March 7 – 23), Leicester Curve (April 3 – 6), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (April 24 – 27), Bristol Old Vic (May 1 – 18), Sheffield Crucible (May 22 – June 1), Leeds Playhouse (September 4 – 21), Oxford Playhouse (October 9 – 12) and Nuffield Southampton Theatres (November 13 – 17).

Image: Cyril Nri as Emmanuel and Kwami Odoom as Ethan in Barber Shop Chronicles at the National Theatre. Photo credit: Marc Brenner.