'For Black Boys' review — Ryan Calais Cameron’s show remains a beautiful piece of theatre

Read our five-star review of Ryan Calais Cameron’s For Black Boys..., starring a new cast and now in performances at the Garrick Theatre to 4 May.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

Ryan Calais Cameron’s For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy is a play that demands to be heard. For too long, the young, Black, male stories at its heart have been absent on a West End stage — and in the arts more broadly. But now in its second West End run in just under a year, this play is showing no signs of slowing down.

This is in part due to the new, and incredibly talented, cast who have taken over the roles of Onyx, Pitch, Jet, Sable, Obsidian, and Midnight: the six men who convene for group therapy and explore the challenges and joys of being young, Black men through a series of vignettes. The change feels right at this point in the play’s evolution and, as Cameron explains in the programme notes, “You can’t say this is for Black boys and not have another set of young men get to experience this.”

Cameron shifts with dexterity between monologues, poetry, rap, dance, and song, such as in the opening tableau which shows the men’s bodies flexing, rippling and moving as one, which then becomes a high-energy playground scene as the boys chant in unison the “Ip dip” rhyme.

Each story is carefully and sensitively delineated, from Tobi King Bakare’s Pitch who vibrates with anger when he discusses the aggressive father he had to “dethrone”, to Fela Lufadeju’s Jet, who opens up about the struggles of being not just a Black man, but a queer, Black man in a beautifully choreographed sequence with Albert Magashi.

Shakeel Haakim, who was working part-time as an usher at the Apollo Theatre during the play’s last West End run, impresses as Pitch, bringing a gentleness to the production as he explains the feeling of being Black but being an outcast within his own community. He examines his hands and says contemplatively, “I guess I’m just not Black enough to be Black.”

No subject is off limits and divisive topics such as whether Black men have reclaimed the N word are discussed with a refreshing openness. Mohammed Mansaray powerfully silences the room when he speaks up, “I don’t answer to that name. I don’t care if you spell it with an ‘a’ or an ‘er’.”

Despite the heaviness of the title, there is so much light in the play, from nostalgic tracks like Santana’s “Maria Maria” and Gyptian’s “Hold You” performed with rich vocals by the entire cast, to humour brought by Posi Morakinyo and Magashi’s characters Midnight and Sable. Although the latter is the least fleshed out of the six men, Magashi steals scenes as the cheeky chappy who’s a hit with the ladies.

Most impressive of all is the way the audience is brought into the storytelling on stage. Previous reviews of the show have spoken about the way people have clicked, cried, called out, laughed, and viscerally reacted to what they saw at New Diorama, the Royal Court, and the Apollo, and press night at the Garrick Theatre was no different. This startling, gut punch of a show remains a beautiful piece of theatre for all audiences, but particularly for the Black boys who inspired its title.

Book For Black Boys tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Photo credit: the cast of For Black Boys... (Photo courtesy of production)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive London theatre updates!

  • Get early access to tickets for the newest shows
  • Access to exclusive deals and promotions
  • Stay in the know about news in the West End
  • Get updates on shows that are important to you

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy