Ryan Calais Cameron’s urgent new play is a worthy bedfellow to the seminal theatre show which inspired its name, 1970s breakthrough piece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.
It features seven men on stage in a set up that’s something like a group therapy session, with the men sharing revelations about their lives, talking about domestic violence, love, laughter, queerness and friendship through the lens of life as young black men.
There’s a frenetic spontaneity to the production. The form often feels something like a stand-up sketch comedy show, with performers leaping from their yellow plastic chairs confessing something of their struggles, and sharing stories. There are interjections of choreographed movement as the tone u-turns from big laughs to darkly serious ruminations on identity and mental health.
When Calais Cameron deals with love and intimacy in the second act, his men appear vividly real – broken by personal grief and systemic discrimination. Darragh Hand’s Sable and Emmanuel Akwafo’s Pitch give particularly devastating performances, their confident turns buoyed by Calais Cameron’s writing, which is less staccato in the second half, giving the stories more time to develop and helping characters feel more fleshed-out.
Examinations of domestic abuse in the first half, when stories and the performance as a whole feels more non-sequitur, don’t carry quite the same emotional weight.
After a sold out run at the New Diorama theatre, and given the belly-laughing all around, this higher budget staging is already a hit. Writer-director Calais Cameron’s idea to project voices loudly and let them sit on stage alone, without anything fussy by way of staging, is brave, and works particularly well in the play’s final moments, when the cast shout the show’s name out loud. Incredibly powerful stuff.
For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy plays at the Royal Court until Saturday April 30