Inspired by the story ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf’, writer Ryan Calais Cameron has beautifully written the black British male version and it packs a punch!
‘For Black Boys who have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets too Heavy’ is a heavy play that will leave you deep in thought. Set in a group therapy room, six young black men discuss topics that men often shy away from. From masculinity to abuse, Ryan Calais Cameron makes sure that key topics men face today are covered in this play.
The play starts with the six men as children. They enter the stage dancing and sucking their thumbs and are dressed in bright clothing that matched the bright staging. The six men start talking by responding to the therapist’s first question – ‘What was your childhood like?’ They each take turns to tell their stories through movement, spoken word, singing and acting. Each story was hard hitting as each man realised that they were treated differently at such a young age, for being black.
The therapist continues to ask questions such as ‘Have you ever been in love’ to ‘What are your experiences of fatherhood’. As the questions flow, their emotions start to become clear, as we see them search deep within themselves to answer these questions.
All six actors held their own throughout the play and each told stories that resonated with me. Midnight’s (Kaine Lawrence) tells an uncomfortable story of how he was sexually abused at the tender age of 9 which left the whole audience in shock. Throughout the play he brought an amazing energy to every story he told.
From masculinity to abuse, Ryan Calais Cameron makes sure that key topics men face today are covered in this play.
Jet (Nnabiko Ejimofor) told a heart-breaking story of losing his dad – something that I too had experienced as a young teenager and could relate to. Every tear he shed I felt and thought his performance was outstanding.
Onyx (Mark Akinyimehin) maintained his tough persona throughout but exposed how his father’s barbaric beatings forced him to be a man when he was only a boy. I found Onyx’s character extremely believable and was performed to perfection.
Obsidian (Aruna Jalloh) had many great stories to tell, from his love of African women to educating the other men on African history and how Africans were great conquerors of Europe. I found him to be engaging, funny and passionate and easily my favourite character.
Pitch (Emmanuel Akwafo) had a vulnerability that was different to the rest of the men, he was innocent, often shy and made the audience weep when he admitted never feeling good enough to be loved. Although he was vulnerable, he was full of energy, charisma, and a joy to watch.
Sable (Darragh Hand) was extremely confident when it came to women but like the other men had faced many dark experiences from being racially profiled by the police to not being good enough to love. Sable managed to morph into many different characters seamlessly and had great energy throughout.
All six actors held their own throughout the play and each told stories that resonated with me.
I enjoyed the play and thought the writing was brilliant. However, I wished the set, costume and at times direction was different. The set was designed by Anna Reid and was a brightly coloured room with an adult sized trampoline and plastic chairs. It would have made more of an impact if they created a room that looked realistic rather than a bright adult sized soft playroom.
The bright coloured costumes were also distracting, and I found Midnight’s hairstyle (two high bunches) added to the childish look that the costume designer had created. I also felt that at times during the first act that the over-the-top movements and facial expressions desensitised many of the stories being told. I couldn’t work out why this direction had been taken with the costume, set design and at times facial expressions, as it didn’t add to the story, but instead dulled the seriousness of the impactful stories the men tell.
Despite this, ‘For Black Boys’ was an honest and hard-hitting play that could impact so many young men’s lives. I think the play is suited more for older teens/young adults, but I can see that all ages would appreciate the storytelling as it is so well written.
It left me in deep thought which is exactly what I think theatre should do and I recommend all teenagers and young adults watch this.