Nouveau Riche is a diverse, multi-award-winning creative movement led by artistic director Ryan Calais Cameron. His play For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy is insightful, full of cruel reality yet humorous. It is an extremely appropriate play for our times of Black Lives Matter. It explores what it means to be a Black man in Britain today. What are the fears and hopes, how do they live in a place that feels so unsafe?
For Black Boys … delves into Black British masculinity and all its complexities. It looks at the various issues that seem to excessively push this group towards suicide. Originally, conceived after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013, the play is a mixture of things Cameron has seen, heard, and felt and it has been on a journey of discovery starting with things written over the years and things written more recently.
It is not just the title that indicates that For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy was inspired by Ntozake Shange’s seminal choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.. It is seen in the style, the decision to have the characters represented by different glaring colours through their costumes, the clear communication of their hopes and fears, the subjects that they tackle, that bind them all together. In the second half they swop, change, share costumes, metaphorically sharing their pain and stories.
Six young men meet for their regular group therapy and through a mixture of movement, dance, verse they connect tell their stories. We learn what it takes for a young black man to survive in Britain. Their very names (Jet, Onyx, Midnight, Obsidian, Sable, Pitch) conjure up blackness.
The ensemble of actors (Mark Akintinehin, Emmanuel Akwafo. Aruna Jallo and Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand and Kaine Lawrence making their professional stage debuts) are extremely talented, full of energy but disciplined. Each one was able to draw us into their pain, fears, hopes and we were moved, and several people were visibly affected by the subject matter.
Directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s the production is full of high energy from the start. in the small theatre the mixture of exhilarating music, the physicality, monologues encompass the whole audience even as they circle each other, tell their stories, changing roles as they talk about fatherhood, love, hate about being bullied, the aggressors, the child the parent. Together they explore their various experiences of discrimination, the ever-present threat of violence they all suffer as they negotiate living in a white world.
Anna Reid’s set, brightly coloured walls, plastic unbreakable chairs, that can be hurled around in anger or despair, the hidden trampolines in the second half evokes a feeling of being at a community centre that could be used for children or adults. It all goes to creating the feeling of a fun playful space in stark contrast to the deep and dark subjects related within that bright space.
This is profound play, moving and hard hitting. It is an unforgettable production and needs to be seen in many venues, including at schools.
Anni Domingo is a writer, actress, lecturer, director, and MA graduate of Anglia Ruskin Creative Writing. Her poems and short stories have been published in various anthologies.
By Anni Domingo
Show runs until 6 Novemeber 2021
For tickets and more info click here
To read last month’s interview with Ryan Calais Cameron click here