Last night I went to see the laugh-out-loud funny heart-warming yet poignant celebratory black theatre fantasy musical play For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy at the Royal Court Theatre in London’s glitzy Sloane Square.
Six young Black men meet for group therapy, and let their hearts – and imaginations – run wild. For Black Boys is located on the threshold of joyful fantasy and brutal reality: a world of music, movement, mental health, storytelling and verse – where six men clash and connect in a desperate bid for survival.
It’s a mosaic of young British black men’s experience; often very, very funny, physically exuberant, occasionally poetic, but with a recurring undertow of dread.
It’s performed on an almost-bare, multi-coloured stage by the hugely likeable six-strong cast of the original production at the New Diorama in 2021. Cameron co-directs here with Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, who helmed that production, and the results are pretty wonderful.
There are tales of playground racism, police harassment and gang culture, but also delicate confessions of thwarted love and performance anxiety, of struggling with macho self-image.
Knitting it together is a surface gloss of boisterous, mocking camaraderie that masks a deep sense of empathy.
Indeed, the emotional payoff of the piece comes from the moments when the men forget their beefs and embrace for a hug when they talk about suicide, which increased among black men during the pandemic.
This makes it sound depressing. But, it is far from. There is a lot of joy, humour and celebration in the pain.