When hair was long and seen as an expression of dissent, this musical challenged society with its notion of free love and camaraderie. Hair relives the optimism surrounding the nineteen sixties, where the power of love and drug induced indulgence allowed for the common goal of equality and racial harmony to be searched for with a youthful and somewhat naive charm. It is a delightful revival skillfully played in the Vaults space that not only reaches out to its audience but also, at times, includes them in it.
The entire space is clad in bright coloured strips of material with the bar area and FOH a sensory delight with its smell of joss sticks, eye catching anti war posters, tie-die wall hangings and low level reclining areas.
Entering the theatre the performance space is sandwiched between parallel seating, with the performers close enough to touch – the whole auditorium feeling the love emanating from the energetic performances of this vocally ear-catching cast. Powerful vocals from Abiola Efunshle, Shekinah McFarlane, with a warm and all embracing performance from Laura Johnson along with kick-ass delivery from Andy Cox and Robert Metson meant this company never flagged.
Hair and flesh was in abundance, and other than their manicured body hair the style captured the sixties summer love with zest. The messages are as positive and as hopeful as ever – ban the bomb, make love not war, be at one with each other and refute the status quo. These are ideas that are perhaps less challenging then 50 years ago, but nonetheless still worth thinking about. In the show the USA flag is powerful symbol of division and cohesion, with its wrap around democracy from shore to shore but clearly, back then, many felt left out. It is perhaps a salutary thought that disrespecting of the flag out frustration is still prevalent today, given the NFL protests of late over racial injustice. Plus ca change!
It is a production that happily chronicles a particular time of social change; where youth found its voice and demanded to be heard, where racial and sexual inequality and exploitation were exposed. In some ways, with the passage of time, this show does not to fully address those issues – the female characters are predominately projected as sexual delights with little characterization and the characters of colour are adored and explored but seem to have little sense of anything beyond their pants. The plotting is not particularly gripping; expectant mums and druggy freeloaders, draft dodgers and drag queens all seeking a trip to freedom through the physical and the mystical – all escaping something. This is perhaps why the songs stand up so well individually, as they feel disconnected to a particular character so make great global hits – and they keep coming, Aquarius, I Got Life, Donna – all reflecting a time gone by.
The producers, Katy Lipson and Ollie Rosenblatt are on a winner here. Snapped up from the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, the company was vocally and physically terrific as they celebrated youth and vitality, offering us the possibility of a new dawn! This company really does let the sunshine in to our hearts, as they belt out ‘It’s Easy to be Hard’ reminding us it is also easy to help and be a friend – not a big ask really.
Get to the Vaults this winter and let the sunshine in!
Hair running at The Vaults October 4th through to January 13th 2018
Director Jonathan O’Boyle
Musical Director Gareth Bretherton
Cheographer William Whelton
Designer Maeve Black
Lighting Designer Ben M Rogers
Sound Designers Calum Robinson and Max Perryment