Here’s why you need to see ‘For Black Boys’ in the West End

Ryan Calais Cameron's Olivier-nominated play about Black British men transfers from the Royal Court to the Apollo Theatre for six weeks in spring.

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

After performances at the New Diorama Theatre and the Royal Court, Ryan Calais Cameron’s debut play For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy heads to the West End's Apollo Theatre. It’s a powerful look at what it means to be a Black man in 21st-century Britain, told through six men’s stories.

Prior to its West End run, the For Black Boys play picked up two Olivier Award nominations. But what is it all about? Ahead of seeing this groundbreaking play, discover more about the emotional drama.

For Black Boys is the latest Royal Court play to run in the West End

The Royal Court is one of London’s leading Off-West End theatres. Many plays that start out at the Chelsea venue go on to achieve worldwide success: Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman won Best New Play at the Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards, and Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen took home the Best New Play title at the Oliviers.

Prior to its West End opening, For Black Boys is already making waves. It’s nominated for Best New Play, up against Peter Morgan's Patriots, Prima Facie starring Jodie Comer and Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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It’s inspired by Ntozake Shange’s seminal play

The 1976 Tony-nominated play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, heavily inspired For Black Boys. Not only do they share a similar title — the American play uses "colored" while the British play uses "Black" — they also share similar narratives.

For Black Boys follows six young Black men as they meet for group therapy sessions. As they open up to one another, they’re captivated by each other’s story, letting their hearts and imaginations run wild. Like For Colored Girls, the new play incorporates spoken word and a 2000s playlist with songs by Aaliyah, India Arie, and Ghost Town DJs.

In an Evening Standard review: “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.”

All six original cast members return

The Olivier-nominated sextet of actors return for the West End production. They all play a character named a different shade of black: Mark Akintimehin (Onyx), Emmanuel Akwafo (Pitch), Nnabiko Ejimofor (Jet), Darragh Hand (Sable), Aruna Jalloh (Obsidian) and Kaine Lawrence (Midnight).

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The play tackles events across Britain and America

Ryan Calais Cameron devised the play in the wake of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's death in Florida 2013. “We really hope this show will drastically change the commercial theatre landscape by ensuring theatre is for everyone and reflects our society," said Cameron.

Elements of For Black Boys's West End journey didn’t happen overnight. The play premiered at New Diorama Theatre in 2021, and then moved to the Royal Court for four weeks in 2022. The production is also in collaboration with Nouveau Riche, a theatre company dedicated to works that deviate from traditional storytelling.

For Black Boys runs for six weeks

This isn’t a long-running play. For Black Boys runs at the Apollo Theatre from 25 March to 7 May 2023. You’ll want to book your tickets in advance to see this highly-celebrated play come to the West End.

Photo credit: For Black Boys (Photos courtesy of production)

Originally published on

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