For Black Boys: This Poetic Play Is a Love Letter to Black Men

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For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets
For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too HeavyPhotography by Johan Persson

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy explores the lived experience of six young Black men who come together for a group therapy session

“If you can stand to wait, the moment will pass.” This is one of the most powerful lines from For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, Ryan Calais Cameron’s double Olivier Award-nominated play, which explores the lived experience of six young Black men, and Black masculinity and Black life in Britain more broadly.

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, written in 1976, For Black Boys … sees Jet, Obsidian, Onyx, Midnight, Pitch, and Sable come together for a group therapy session, in which they open up and reveal the most vulnerable sides of themselves – seemingly for the very first time. The result is an incredibly moving piece of theatre. And though the themes are heavy (racism, violence, toxic relationships, and forms of trauma are all touched upon), the play is interspersed with moments of levity and joy. You’re struck by the love between the characters, the bond that unites them, and the power of vulnerability.

The production has been wildly successful, and as it enters its final week, AnOther caught up with Tobi King Bakare, who plays Onyx (and who you may recognise from I May Destroy You), about what being in this play has meant to him and what he hopes people take away from it.

AnOther Magazine: What was your journey into acting like?

Tobi King Bakare: I grew up wanting to be a barrister (not the coffee type) up until I was 15. I loved literature and reading but didn’t know I wanted to actually tell stories until I watched a beautiful play called The Believers in secondary school. I remember leaving the theatre feeling a complicated mixture of fear, intrigue and inspiration. After that day, I knew I was a drama kid.

AM: How did you get cast in For Black Boys … ? What was that process like?

TKB: The process was intense, very fitting for the show at hand. Krump, singing, improv and movement all condensed into a cosy Royal Court rehearsal space. Think army bootcamp but with ten times the camaraderie and spirit. After the auditions, I remember friends asking me how it went. My reply was “it went”.

AM: How would you introduce the play?

TKB: I would say For Black Boys … is an exploration of the lived experience of six young Black men who have all come together to express themselves. They explore themes of love, joy, masculinity, trauma, and brotherhood. It’s a poetic love letter to Black men especially, but also our Black community as a whole.

AM: What kind of issues does it address?

TKB: All the things we unfortunately don’t talk about enough. The societal trials and tribulations you sometimes go through because of race and class. However, what I think sets For Black Boys … apart is the message it leaves the audience with. Even after tackling themes as heavy as suicide, you are guaranteed to leave that theatre empowered and lifted.

AM: Who is Onyx? What is he like and what kind of challenges is he facing?

TKB: Although I don’t like to describe Onyx like this, he’s a roadman. Onyx is a tough dude. He’s had a tough life and wears his toughness as armour. However, underneath we see he’s a vulnerable young man who is desperately trying to be understood.

AM: What do you like about this character?

TKB: I like that I’ve been given the opportunity to subvert opinions on characters like this. To give grace and show the different shades that men like this aren’t often given.

AM: How much were you able to feed into this character? Was it quite collaborative with Ryan?

TKB: It was very collaborative. Ryan allowed me to flow with my interpretation but kept me in check ensuring I still told the story he created.

AM: What has it been like working together with the other guys in the play – Shakeel, Fela, Albert, Mohammed and Posi?

TKB: Them man are alright I guess … I’m joking, I’m honoured and eternally grateful to be working with such talented, inspiring and generous individuals. We a family now.

AM: What do you hope people take away from this play?

TKB: Love. The magic of the show comes from the love that is shared on stage and through to the audience. I hope every audience member regardless of shade, gender, age, or class can tap into the love.

AM: And finally, what have you taken away from the experience of being in this play?

TKB: If you’re willing to do anything to get it, anything is possible.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy is playing at the Garrick Theatre in London until June 1. Head here for tickets.