Every so often, a play comes along that changes the game, flips the script and forever disrupts the theatre landscape, For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy, is one of those productions.
Ryan Calais Cameron’s play has enjoyed three press nights. From its early beginnings at New Diorama (2021); then it was snapped up by the Royal Court (2022) and now the glittering lights of the West End where it’s playing at Nimax’s Apollo Theatre.
It’s an incredibly inspiring journey and a West End transfer is a huge deal. I doubt this is the last stop, either. I would not be surprised if For Black Boys… goes on a national tour or perhaps Broadway is on the horizon – I hope both. This critical play needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
“There are many raucous, laugh out loud, relatable moments and plenty of exuberance from the talented cast – whether through movement, singing, dancing, or simply being kind and loving towards one another”.
We join the cast of six, young black men on a group therapy session as Nouveau Riche’s emotive play is inspired by an African-American playwright, Ntozake Shange’s musical, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. With this in mind, the set design is vibrant and vivid with bold, uplifting colours.
Through each character’s monologues, we dissect the struggles of being a young Black male. Each of the actors who reprise their roles, Jet (Nnabiko Ejimofor), Onyx (Mark Akintimehin), Pitch (Emmanuel Akwafo), Sable (Darragh Hand), Obsidian (Aruna Jalloh) and Midnight (Kaine Lawrence) deliver their experiences with integrity, raw emotion and tenderness. However, as uncomfortable as some of the subject matters might make you feel, there are many raucous, laugh-out-loud, relatable moments and plenty of exuberance from the talented cast – whether through movement, singing, dancing, or simply being kind and loving towards one another.
For Black Boys… explores what it’s like to be a Black, British male and all the assumptions, stereotypes and limitations that society burdens them with.
This beautiful and poetic play challenges all of this. Guess what? Black men DO fall in love. Black men ARE vulnerable. Black men DO cry and sometimes Black men just need a hug. All these human conditions played out on stage with courage, softness and infectious energy. I laughed, cried, nodded in solidarity and did a little dance in my seat – all of this on more than one occasion. I want this for you, too!
“Every so often, a play comes along that changes the game, flips the script and forever disrupts the theatre landscape, For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy, is one of those productions”.
From the pulsating music filling the air and fuelling our anticipation, as we take our seats and, during the interval, it’s apparent that this is a safe space for Black and Global Majority audiences. It’s a complete vibe. And, with this playing in the West End, too – it is a poignant sight to behold. In fact, in the end, we are encouraged to stay in our seats so we can take time to process what we have just experienced or centre ourselves before going back into the real world – so necessary and wonderful.
Almost like a seventh character, the significance of music in this choreopoem, really deserves a separate review. So, a big shout out to sound designer and composer, Nicola T. Chang and musical director John Pfumojena. I fully appreciated the cast grinding, gyrating and serenading us with the soundtrack of my 30s whilst I sang along to tunes such as Routine Check (The Mitchell Brothers); My Boo (Ghost Town DJs) and Blackstreet’s, No Diggity. It was a strong start to the play and set the tone for the powerful production that lay ahead. I highly recommend you enjoy the playlist on Spotify. Here’s the link – you can thank me later.
I was fortunate enough to have seen this at the Royal Court and I loved it then as much as I do now. For Black Boys… is an exquisite and game-changing, theatrical experience. We ALL need to see more Black boy joy.
It’s your final warning – don’t sleep on this one.