Aurora Nova, Edinburgh
August, 2006

It's not unusual to see a show which invests an ordinary activity with significance simply by putting it before an audience, but I didn't expect to see it done with hairdressing.  Before Raymond Keane co-founded the Irish clowning theatre company Barabbas in the 1980s he was the country's hottest maverick haircutter, turning down an offer to become U2's personal stylist (though he admits, "I never saw The Edge's hair"). This show includes some visual/physical set pieces and a handful of autobiographical anecdotes, but its core is simply the spectacle of watching Keane cut an audience member's hair. If you have ever thought of hairdressing as a sensual experience, this will confirm it: at the performance I saw, he repeatedly ran his fingers through spectator-turned-client Athena's hair, as if trying to divine from its strands what the ideal shape would be. And he found it: Keane does not impose styles, he lets the client and their hair define his terms. He also chats with them and with the rest of the audience, creating an intimacy which is finally consummated when the new cut is shown in the mirror, on this occasion unostentatious yet beautiful. Barabbas has long been an inventive company, but this show – as it were – pares matters back to the roots and yet remains compelling.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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