For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy – Apollo Theatre, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Writer & Director: Ryan Calais Cameron

Following immense audience support for its sell-out runs at the New Diorama Theatre and the Royal Court , the highly-anticipated West End transfer of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy has finally arrived and it is glorious.

The current production sees the award-winning ensemble of six actors return, each leading the episodic storytelling in turn, as they tackle numerous experiences and conflicts which affect young black men growing up in Britain. Whilst the cast works seamlessly to collectively explore this overarching theme, every member has a strong sense of individuality. The actors expertly exude both heart and comedy in their own unique blend and each embodies different ideals and attitudes, resulting in a beautifully complex exchange of ideas.

This is, of course, in no small part the result of Ryan Calais Cameron’s intricate and thoughtful work as writer and director of the play. He collates countless poignant scenes with such a natural flow, yet always knows exactly when to alleviate the tension with a witty quip or laugh-out-loud cultural reference. Intelligently utilising the diverse experiences of the ensemble to generate discussion, Cameron explores topics like masculinity, whitewashing and Black History Month without asserting a ‘correct’ opinion on anything.

A section led by Mark Akintimehin and Nnabiko Ejimofor reflecting on their respective relationships with contrasting father figures, is moving, powerful and a highlight of the show. It also demonstrates a core feeling which informs much of the show: pain. Whether addressed or suppressed, there is a sense of reluctance to fully acknowledge this hurt, resulting in a raw emotional charge which runs as an undercurrent throughout the production.

While the writing is consistently engaging, For Black Boys… does risk overestimating the audience’s attention span. This could be in part due to its less traditional structure of a short first act and longer commitment post-interval. It would certainly be a shame for any viewer to not feel the full impact of the moving final scenes, however, and one or two of the relationship anecdotes could perhaps be omitted to avoid this.

Movement director Theophilus O. Bailey has worked with the cast to develop controlled, precise and highly effective physical sequences to assist the storytelling. Ejimofor, particularly, is endlessly watchable in this format, using impressive discipline to communicate emotion and create entertaining characterisations throughout. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Akwafo can crack the audience up, or break them down, with a mere adjustment of his brilliantly expressive face. From Darragh Hand’s endearing cheekiness to Kaine Lawrence’s layered scepticism, each cast member shines in their own way and continually impresses throughout the performance.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy celebrates, critiques, parodies and deconstructs an impressive range of perceptions surrounding black male identity, doing so with care, nuance and pride. Believe the hype and book tickets, before it’s too late.

Runs until 7 May 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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