‘For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy’ by Ryan Calais Cameron.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Was Too Heavy, places the stories of Black men front and centre.

I was lucky enough to watch the show last year during its sold-out run at New Diorama and for those of us watching it that first time, it felt like we were all in on a little secret – it felt precious and singular. I had never felt so palpably moved by a show and so was eager to hear about its transfer to the Royal Court. This time, Ryan Calais Cameron takes the helm as both writer and director and it is important to see him continue to exercise creative autonomy over this project at this venue.

Photo Credit: Ali Wright.

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls, this iteration of for black boys… returns to its origins as a choreopoem, incorporating more movement sequences choreographed by Theophilus O. Bailey-Godson. The play erupts with a dance sequence led by Jet (played by Nnabiko Ejimofor) who moves fluidly onstage. This addition is noteworthy considering how highly politicised and brutalised the Black body is in the public arena. Indeed, each character alludes to the emotional and physical assaults laid on their body – Sable (played by Darragh Hand) details his experiences of being stopped and searched, Midnight (played by Kaine Lawrence) reckons with his childhood sexual abuse. It was then uplifting to see these Black bodies shake off their heaviness and be light and joyful on their feet. Without the New Diorama’s fitted trampoline, the actors successfully created this buoyancy together, propelling each other into the air which was a powerful visual message – Black men only need each other to fly.

Photo Credit: Ali Wright.

For black boys… shows Black men in all of their lightness and shade – from the ‘Oreo’ Emmanuel Akwafo’s struggles with dating to Mark Akintimehin’s hardened ‘badman’, and to feel so invested and enraptured by this show is testament to the performance of its young cast.

It was, however, in the show’s softer and quieter moments i.e. where Aruna Jalloh’s Obsidian shares his dreams for the future, where I found myself getting emotional, as it was a painful reminder that Black men are often not afforded softness and joy.

Sometimes productions that are explicitly about the Black experience can feel like they are educating the inevitably very white audience that shows up.  For black boys…, however, is not interested in explaining itself – with the show’s title, there is no confusion about who this play seeks to platform and uplift. For black boys… remains one of the best pieces of theatre that I have had the privilege of watching but I am cautious of calling this an essential piece of theatre. To me, this has the same energy as reading lists compiled during BLM and seems a bit voyeuristic into the Black experience. I will say that for black boys… feels like a reminder of what theatre should be – imperative, resonant, honest and urgent.

Photo Credit: Ali Wright.

A shared language is one of the best gifts that a piece of art can give, and Calais Cameron gives not only his actors but also an audience of Black men, a dictionary of emotions. This is an artist who knows what they want to say and most importantly how they want to say it.


For Black Boys… runs until 30th April @ The Royal Court

SUMMARY

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s 'for colored girls', Ryan Calais Cameron’s 'for black boys…' paints Black men fully, in both their lightness and shade.

OUT OF 100

Script
95 %
Story
90 %
Acting
85 %
Characters
90 %
Directing
85 %
Costume
70 %
Soundtrack
85 %
Production Design
70 %
For the Culture
100 %
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