For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy. Mohammed Mansaray. Photo by Johan Persson

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy – Reviews Round-up

A Reviews Round-up for For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy by Ryan Calais Cameron, including its 6-week run at the Apollo Theatre in London in 2023, and its current run at the Garrick Theatre in London in 2024.

The show transfers into the West End after sell-out shows at the Royal Court and the New Diorama Theatre.

The play is inspired by Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf,  and sees six men meet for group therapy and clash and connect in a desperate bid for survival – letting their hearts – and imaginations – run wild.

The play was originally conceived by Ryan Calais Cameron in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and has been developed over the course of the last decade with young black men and mental health groups. Over 100 men auditioned for the production in 2021 .

For the Apollo Theatre run in 2023, the original cast returned for the West End production, all of whom collectively were nominated for a 2023 Olivier Award, and won a The Stage Debut Award: Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh and Kaine Lawrence. 

For the Garrick Theatre run in 2024, the cast is: Tobi King Bakare as Onyx, Shakeel Haakim as Pitch, Fela Lufadeju as Jet, Albert Magashi as Sable, Mohammed Mansaray as Obsidian and Posi Morakinyo as Midnight. Understudies are Mohamed Bangaru, Rushand Chambers and Kieran Taylor-Ford.

Directed by Ryan Calais Cameron, the show’s set and costume design is by Anna Reid, with lighting design by Rory Beaton, additional music and sound design by Nicola T Chang, movement direction by Theophilus O. Bailey and musical direction by John Pfumojena. Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu directed the show’s original run at  New Diorama Theatre.

Check out reviews, below, from The Telegraph, Guardian, the Evening Standard and more.

For Black Boys… is playing at the Garrick Theatre in London until 4 May 2024.

Book tickets to For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy at the Apollo Theatre in London

UPDATES: First published 4 April 2023 with reviews from the Apollo Theatre run; Updated 18 March 2024 with reviews from the show’s Garrick Theatre run

For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy reviews

The Sunday Times

"A modern masterpiece" (Garrick Theatre)

"This sexy, serious and funny play started small but deserves to go to Broadway. Don’t miss For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy"

"For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy is staggeringly good. If you worry that a second-run cast means a second-best cast, strike that thought. I missed the previous run, but can’t believe anyone could perform this with greater wit, tenderness, physicality and musicality than Tobi King Bakare, Shakeel Haakim, Fela Lufadeju, Albert Magashi, Mohammed Mansaray and Posi Morakinyo."

"In fact For Black Boys… toys with labels so inventively, so entertainingly, finally so movingly, that it is itself impossible to label. You won’t see the word “choreopoem” on the posters, anyway. It is, however, angry and mournful and sexy and serious and funny and freeing and a modern masterpiece. It’s only here till the start of May. Catch it if you can."

Dominic Maxwell, The Sunday Times
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The Financial Times

"Outstanding new production of a tender drama" (Garrick Theatre)

"The expertly choreographed staging at the Garrick Theatre, London, thrives on its performers’ chemistry"

"The challenge for the new team (Tobi King Bakare, Shakeel Haakim, Fela Lufadeju, Albert Magashi, Mohammed Mansaray and Posi Morakinyo) is to make this piece, so tightly choreographed and so closely aligned to the physical skills and styles of the actors, work on their terms. That they do so is testament to them and to the strength of the central idea, which spools out from a therapy session into a rich, funny, tender meditation on the complexities of being a young Black man."

"What is most moving is the chemistry between the cast members. While each character is precisely defined, their choral work is also outstanding: they listen intently, lean forward for a confession, light up when someone dares to admit their feelings."

"It’s a gentle, beautiful use of physical theatre that quietly reminds you of the danger lurking in the title and makes its point about the importance of love."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Telegraph

"A landmark moment in West End theatre" (Apollo Theatre)

"Ryan Calais Cameron's ultimately feelgood show, now at the Apollo, is an inspiration"

"... its arrival in the West End (having begun life at fringe venue the New Diorama) feels like a huge moment, suggesting a generational breakthrough for black British playwrights in theatreland, and bolstered by it having been nominated as the Best New Play at the Olivier Awards."

"Cameron gives us a free-form series of vignettes, punctuated with bouts of urban song and dance. These involve half a dozen young black men who, as if partaking in group therapy, unfold the fracturing experience of living in the city, with pressures of masculinity, family, society and history bearing down on them."

"A feelgood show that plumbs the depths, then, and a choral cry to be heard that leaves you inspired not browbeaten. Not bad for a West End debut."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Guardian

"A moving meditation on Black masculinity" (Apollo Theatre)

"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"

"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."

"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."

"Even if the men’s undefined roles make them sometimes seem cartoonish, the play remains a juggernaut that deserves to attract the masses."

Anya Ryan, The Guardian
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The Financial Times

"Ryan Calais Cameron’s beautiful meditation on black masculinity" (Apollo Theatre)

"It takes the rough guise of a support meeting, with six black British men working through the histories that have made them who they are. That might sound corny, but Cameron’s script is witty and moving, and delivered with terrific, eloquent physicality by the six-strong ensemble."

"When words run out, song and dance take over and they launch into scintillating choreography (by Theophilus O Bailey), firing up the audience. But what really makes this show is their vulnerability, the deft expression of that through movement and subtle body language, and the celebration of the power of mutual support"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Stage

"Exhilarating and emotionally rich exploration of Black masculinity and mental health" (Apollo Theatre)

"There’s a moment in Ryan Calais Cameron’s moving choreopoem when one of the performers shares a painful, exposing story about his sexuality and another immediately crosses the stage and wraps his arms around him, holding him tight. This wordless gesture encapsulates the strength of this show – its capacity to make its audience feel held and seen."

"In between all the talk, the cast members dance, moving their bodies eloquently, sensually, playfully, mixing balletic elegance with krumping, charging up and down the stairs that frame Anna Reid’s bright, two-level set. The superb movement direction by Theophilus O Bailey makes the show as physically vigorous as it is emotionally rich."

"This is a supremely caring show, full of compassion and warmth, but it is also riotously funny at times"

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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The Evening Standard

"Pretty wonderful" (Apollo Theatre)

"There’s a surprising amount of joy in Ryan Calais Cameron’s play about the experience of young British black men"

"Given the title there’s a surprising amount of joy in Ryan Calais Cameron’s play. It’s a mosaic of young British black men’s experience, often laugh-out-loud funny and physically exuberant, occasionally poetic, but with a recurring undertow of dread."

"Though the cast have strong personalities, there are no characters as such. Instead, they reconfigure for each new scenario to address or challenge stereotypes. The physical language devised by Theophilus O. Bailey-Godson is eloquent, the lads switching from larky children to attitudinising grime rappers in a heartbeat."

"Here, the emotional payoff comes from the moments when the men forget their beefs and embrace for a hug. And when they talk about suicide, which increased among black men during the pandemic. This makes it sound depressing. But as I said, there’s a whole lot of joy to savour here, too."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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"Ryan Calais Cameron’s Olivier-nominated sleeper smash is a gloriously un-West End hit" (Apollo Theatre)

"All of its cast and most of its creative team are Black men, talking about their experiences of growing up in a world that often sidelines and stereotypes them in a style that's non-linear, raw, spontaneous, and massively fun to watch."

"This opening scene explores how school offers unwanted lessons first in other kids' prejudice, then, later, in the grinding historical traumas of slavery. The same rhythm patterns throughout the play, with big themes getting introduced and then broken down through the fragmented experiences of the cast. But it never quite feels predictable, because Calais Cameron is such a master of the sharp tonal shift."

"Even with every aspect of the production firing on all cylinders, it does sometimes lose momentum... By the end, though, all is forgotten. This is seriously powerful theatre, the kind that feels like an event, a statement, and a party all at once – and it's got something to say to pretty much everyone, while being unapologetically for and by the Black boys of its title."

Alice Saville, TimeOut
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The Times

"Note-perfect actors in a dreamlike confessional" (Apollo Theatre)

"The interplay between the actors and their public is a key element of this confessional. When the cast strike up an R&B song, you can expect folk in the stalls to pick up the melody and run with it. At times, the response to some of the dialogue is so raucous you might think you’re at a stand-up show at that other legendary Apollo, in Harlem. During the more introspective sections, the effect can be, frankly, a little jarring. These characters, all with burdens of their own, surely aren’t looking for laughs with every line."

"It’s the group dynamic that gives this production its frisson."

"If the writing is grandiloquent and self-pitying in places — there’s room to cut at least 30 minutes from the two-and-a-half-hour running time — the performances are note-perfect."

Clive Davis, The Times
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For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy

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📷 Main photo: For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy. Mohammed Mansaray. Photo by Johan Persson

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