(Anya Ryan’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/2; Photo: Boyish energy … For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy. Photograph: Ali Wright.)
Apollo theatre, London
Underneath the pain in Ryan Calais Cameron’s powerful play there is an abundance of light, as six Black men open up about the experiences and beliefs that have shaped them
Ryan Calais Cameron’s For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy first opened at the New Diorama theatre in 2021, and then transferred to the Royal Court for a run last year. But, it is here in its third incarnation in the West End that the play has found its rightful home, being performed on an expansive stage. Set in the rough form of a therapy session, six Black men take turns to open up about the beliefs and experiences that have shaped them into the people they’ve become. It’s a powerful and deeply moving meditation on Black masculinity and Black life in Britain. But underneath all the pain, there’s an abundance of light, laughter and boyish energy too.
Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s seminal work, For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Cameron’s writing has a similar sense of confession. The men talk of racism in the playground, run-ins with the police, romantic love, colourism and male stereotypes. The potential of suicide hangs, potently, throughout it all. But, the stories of trauma they share are all too real. On press night, the audience nod along, click and cry in agreement. While the play could never be totally encompassing of all Black men’s lives, Cameron has neatly stitched together a wealth of opposing, recognisable issues. At its core, the play asks how to play the role of the right kind of Black man. Tragic, vulnerable and honest, these are voices that are usually buried, but need to be heard.