Retrograde Reviews ★★★★

Reviews are coming in for the world premiere of Ryan Calais Cameron’s new play Retrograde at the Kiln Theatre in London.

Following Ryan Calais Cameron’s extraordinary smash-hit play For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, which is now in its final weeks at the Apollo Theatre, his new play Retrograde has opened at the Kiln Theatre.

Retrograde at the Kiln Theatre. Photos by Marc Brenner

Set in 1950s Hollywood, and based on a true event in the life of actor Sidney Poitier, the play examines the reality of a Black actor’s journey to stardom, and explores a moment in a career which paved ways and changed perceptions, cementing the legacy of a Hollywood icon.

The play stars Ivanno Jeremiah (Constellations) as Sidney, with Ian Bonar (Death of a Salesman) as play Bobby and Daniel Lapaine (Hedda Gabler) as Mr Parks.

Retrograde is directed by Kiln Associate Director Amit Sharma, with Design by Frankie Bradshaw, Lighting Design by Amy Mae, Sound Design by Beth Duke, Casting Direction by Juliet Horsley CDG, and the Kiln-Mackintosh Resident Assistant Director will be Jessica Mensah.

Retrograde is playing at the Kiln until 27 May 2023.

Read reviews including the Times, Evening Standard, and The Stage. More reviews to follow.

Book tickets to Retrograde at the Kiln Theatre London

Average Critics Rating

Retrograde reviews

The Evening Standard

"Ryan Calais Cameron’s portrait of Sidney Poitier is electrifying"

"Ivanno Jeremiah delivers a performance of great strength and delicacy as the pioneering actor"

"A resolute, dignified young Sidney Poitier squares off against the paranoid forces of white 1950s Hollywood and the American political establishment in this electrifying drama from Ryan Calais Cameron. Unfolding in real time over 90 minutes it has the pace of a thriller and is written in a heightened, brutal form of classic, snappy movie dialogue. Amid all the zingers and putdowns, Ivanno Jeremiah delivers a performance of great strength and delicacy as Poitier."

"Retrograde, a rigorously constructed narrative drama, confirms him as a writer of great skill and talent with more than one stylistic shot in his locker."

"Compelling as it is, Retrograde isn’t perfect. Parks is overwritten as a character, shifting from hyperactive bonhomie to sinister threat..."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Ivanno Jeremiah is magnetic as Poitier"

"Compact biographical drama examines repression and racism in the golden age of Hollywood"

"Playwright Ryan Calais Cameron... draws these sparse biographical facts together to create a taut and tightly focused drama. His script is witty and briskly written, full of crisp verbal sparring that gathers speed and sharpness as it surges towards a defiant and deeply satisfying conclusion."

"With the story unfolding in real-time, director Amit Sharma starts building tension from the opening moments and never lets it dip."

"Ivanno Jeremiah gives a magnetic central performance as Poitier, depicting a figure of perfect self-possession and easy-going intellectual confidence that almost completely masks his inner righteous anger."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Times

"A poignant tale of the Hollywood witch hunt"

"Homing in on the early career of Sidney Poitier, the young playwright has devised a brisk, if occasionally overwrought, account of how the actor faced down pressure to conform during the anti-communist witch hunt of the 1950s."

"Ivanno Jeremiah gives us a rangy, self-confident Poitier with a ready smile and the colourful dress sense of a jazz musician. But, we soon discover, there is a shaft of steel beneath the easygoing exterior."

"Amit Sharma’s direction isn’t always subtle — there’s an overtone of melodrama at times."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Independent

"Ryan Calais Cameron cements himself as one of theatre’s most thrilling voices"

"Ivo Jeremiah gives a career-best performance as Sidney Poitier"

"Playwright Ryan Calais Cameron is cementing his status as one of our most exciting playwrights... his latest, a gripping drama about Sidney Poitier at the Kiln Theatre, confirms his talent. It may not quite reach the euphoric heights of Cameron’s last play, but the script is tight and pacey, with a career-best performance from Ivanno Jeremiah, last seen on stage in Constellations."

"Cameron’s 90-minute production may all take place against the warm tones and clean lines of Frankie Bradshaw’s office set, but there’s nothing static here, where the writing is as fast and funny as it is sharp and shocking."

"His [Sidney poitier's] big speech, in which he laments the pain of trying not to be the Angry Black Man in a world that warrants anger, took my breath away."

"Once again, Cameron has captured a rarely told narrative and brought it to the stage. Long may he continue to do so."

Isobel Lewis, The Independent
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i News

"Sharply skewers race and power in Hollywood’s Golden Age"

"This witty drama about Sidney Poitier’s rise to stardom confirms Ryan Calais Cameron as the playwright of the moment"

"Ryan Calais Cameron is the playwright of the moment... this new drama, based upon a true event in the early career of Hollywood Golden Age film star Sidney Poitier, is set to cement his reputation. It’s always a cause for celebration when British theatre can welcome a strong new voice with something fresh and urgent to say."

"Amit Sharma’s poised production delicately traces the subtly shifting power dynamics between the trio, as well as having fun with Cameron’s sharp writing."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Guardian

"Toxicity meets integrity in exceptional Sidney Poitier drama"

"Ryan Calais Cameron’s terrific three-hander dramatises a meeting in 1955 Hollywood, mapping the dilemmas that actors of colour still face"

"There are fantastic rat-a-tat exchanges between the three men, almost Mamet-like in their speed and savagery. Ryan Calais Cameron’s writing is sabre-sharp, every demotic and period inflection perfected, every threat hewn and glimmering with intelligence."

"... he is fast proving himself an exceptional talent."

"The direction by Amit Sharma matches the tension in the script and we feel it rise from the minute Poitier enters the room."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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"Ivanno Jeremiah is tremendous as a poised young Sidney Poitier in the latest from rising star playwright Ryan Calais Cameron"

"If Parks and Bobby are at heart shallow, cipher-like characters, Poitier is both terrifically written by Cameron and performed magnificently by Jeremiah..."

"Amit Sharma’s production is a rousing and propulsive 90 minutes that I could absolutely see making Cameron a mint by transferring to Broadway with a big-name Hollywood actor in the Poiter role - it screams ‘star vehicle’."

"I think ultimately there are a couple of problems with it, that don’t stop it being a gripping piece of theatre, but do hold it back from being as good as it could be... The biggest issue, though, is that the play’s ending feels like a fudge."

"‘Retrograde’ may well end up being a stonking hit. I don’t think it will be regarded as Cameron’s masterpiece. But it effortlessly seals his reputation as a major talent."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Observer

"In his quickfire new McCarthy-era play, For Black Boys… creator Ryan Calais Cameron speaks his mind"

"His new play is utterly different: socially engaged, skilfully recreating a historic encounter and driven by rapid-fire dialogue."

"Opening in the week of Harry Belafonte’s death, Amit Sharma’s fleet production of Retrograde strikes with particular force."

"Retrograde is not nuanced: it is forthright, near-polemical. It is a polemic we need."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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The Financial Times

"Sidney Poitier is embroiled in blacklisting and betrayal in Retrograde"

"The dramatist, who wrote the beautiful, poetic For Black Boys..., here moves in a completely different direction, creating a gripping period drama about the grubby intersection of racism, rightwing paranoia and power."

"... Amit Sharma’s slightly larger-than-life staging plays out with the tension of a thriller, surfing the shifting power dynamics in the room."

"Ivanno Jeremiah brings great poise and nuance to Poitier, gracefully conveying his dignified charisma."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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📷 Main photo: Retrograde at the Kiln Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner

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