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For Black Boys… review (Garrick Theatre)

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Ryan Calais Cameron’s double Olivier-nominated play ‘For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy’ has returned to the West End, following its sell-out run at the Apollo Theatre in 2023 and successful Off-West End origins at the New Diorama and Royal Court Theatres in 2022. The poignant play which takes inspiration from Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ has an all new cast for its second West End run, which brings the roles of Onyx, Pitch, Jet, Sable, Obsidian and Midnight to the London stage once more. Featuring themes of racism, discrimination and suicide, this emotional and humorous piece of theatre provides a powerful and authentic insight into what it means to be a black man in this country.

For Black Boys... programme outside the Garrick Theatre, London

A play that takes on many forms

Centring on six black men who come together to talk about identity, trauma, family, relationships and mental health, the play crosses boundaries in its form, covering drama, choreography, music and comedy. At the heart of every unique element is Calais Cameron’s unparalleled storytelling and impactful dialogue, brought to life through rhythmic and lyrical monologues which are delivered by the talented cast. For this West End run, the writer is also in the director’s seat, staging his own work at the Garrick.

Choreography and movement

Theophilus O. Bailey’s movements are essential to the production’s blocking and overall sense of direction. The choreographer has made full use of the performance space, allowing the performers to scale the distance and height of the set. This can be seen in both tightly choreographed dance sequences to Nicola T. Chang’s sounds and individual transitional movements. The intimate cast by no means look lost on the large Garrick stage, they thrive within the space.

Ensemble in For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy © Johan Persson
© Johan Persson

Set and lighting design

With design by Anna Reid, the simple but effective set is transformed by Rory Beaton’s vibrant lighting hues. For a show with such harrowing themes, I was amazed by the amount of light within the production, both literally and figuratively. Beaton’s vision is vital to the multiple themes of the play, rotating between the colourful hues which provide warmth during the group’s conversations and the isolated darkness which surrounds the monologues.

Albert Magashi (Sable) and Fela Lufadeju (Jet) in For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy © Johan Persson
© Johan Persson

The only thing that let the show down for me was the intensity of the lighting at the end of act one. Whilst I understand the significance of amplifying the strobe effects to hit home the meaning of the script, in the last scene I found it too much. It was a little unwatchable in places, taking focus away from the choreography and the dialogue.

An exceptional cast

It would be unfair to single out an individual member of the For Black Boys… cast, with each performer equally contributing to the strength of the material. Tobi King Bakare, Shakeel Haakim, Fela Lufadeju, Albert Magashi, Mohammed Mansaray and Posi Morakinyo are all spectacular performers, delivering Calais Cameron’s lines with exceptional timing and impact. The rap and musical segments are also extremely refreshing, with the artists moving from spoken words to lyrical sections in seconds.

Ensemble in For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy © Johan Persson
© Johan Persson

If I were to choose a particular moment from the cast that stood out, it would be Onyx and Jet’s contrasting speeches about Fatherhood. It is brilliantly brought to life by Calais Cameron, with Tobi King Bakare and Fela Lufadeju taking a turn to recreate their father’s actions and also dissecting what manhood means to black people. It does contain some upsetting moments, but it is a vital addition to the work, explaining the impact of childhood and upbringing on their identities.

Impact of the work

As a white female, For Black Boys… had a profound impact on me, highlighting society’s voices and perspectives that too often are overlooked. It is also proof that hard-hitting theatre can be both overwhelming and uplifting at the same time, acting as a piece of art which encourages black men to speak up.

For Black Boys... curtain call at the Garrick Theatre, London

If there is one poignant play that you should see in London this year, it should be ‘For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy’. The writing teaches audiences the complexities of growing up as a black man in the UK, but still manages to come from a place of strength and celebration. The show is playing at the Garrick Theatre for 9 weeks, with 25% of the tickets available for £25.00 or under, as part of wider commitments to make the production accessible to audiences. Tickets are available via Nimax Theatres and all major London ticket sellers, with performances running until Saturday 4th May. 

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for For Black Boys… was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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