Hot on the heels of his soar-away success For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy, Ryan Calais Cameron brings Retrograde to Kilburn’s Kiln Theatre. For Black Boys…’ is an exceptionally special piece of work and I was chomping at the bit to see how on earth one follows up such a masterpiece. Set in 1950s Hollywood and centred around a real experience of the legendary Sidney Poitier, Retrograde was definitely not a disappointment.
The many references to Harry Belafonte were both apt and poignant as the opening night of Retrograde, which happened to coincide with his death (RIP)”
It’s the Golden age of Hollywood, and a young Sidney Poitier (Ivanno Jeremiah) firmly in the shadow of Harry Belafonte is offered the role of a lifetime in a TV movie, that is sure to make him a superstar, but at what cost? The movie has been written by his good (white) friend Bobby (Ian Bonar) and he visits the NBC offices to sign his contract with greasy lawyer Larry Parks (Daniel Lapaine).
Parks are more interested in Poitier’s political affinities and try to blackmail him into denouncing a friend involved in the civil rights movement. An hour and a half pass surprisingly quickly as you are swept up in the story immediately and held spellbound till the inevitable conclusion. The many references to Harry Belafonte were both apt and poignant as the opening night of Retrograde, which happened to coincide with his death (RIP).
Ryan Calais Cameron just might be the playwright of our time.
As it turns out, perfect casting is pivotal to a play that’s set in one room with just three actors. Powerful and convincing performances were delivered by all, notably so by Jeremiah, who has Poitier’s clipped vocal nuances down to a tee and Lapaine’s passionate, patriotic vitriol. Cameron just might be the playwright of our time. Nominated for an Olivier award, keep your eyes on this guy – another fantastic play not to be missed.