Tag Archives: Ben Allen

Black Superhero

Black Superhero


Royal Court

BLACK SUPERHERO at the Royal Court


Black Superhero

“Wynter’s script is light footed and fast paced, packed with witty one liners, but unafraid of sombre, more human moments”


Black Superhero is a fresh and exciting exploration of black queer love, and representation, which effortlessly manages to straddle the personal and political.

David (played by writer Danny Lee Wynter) is a struggling actor, trying to stay true to his principals about black queer representation, but also trying to pay the rent. He is in love with his best friend, King (Dyllón Burnside) and King has just opened his marriage. However, what unfolds is not a love story, but a power struggle of hero-worship, self-loathing and the inevitable spiral into dark and familiar places.

Wynter’s script is light footed and fast paced, packed with witty one liners, but unafraid of sombre, more human moments. While questions of representation, particularly about whether queer actors should play queer parts, and queer baiting, do dominate the discussion, they are handled lightly. There are no tired and long-winded explanations, this is a play which expects a level of knowledge from its audience. As such it can dabble in the conversation, without getting weighed down by it. Also, it’s very funny. The biting satire of the white characters had the audience groaning, wincing and cackling. Yet the emotional connections felt real, and the depictions of joy were a pleasure. At one point David, speaking about the film Moonlight, comments on a lack of representation of queer joy. It is striking how much laughter (especially in the first half) does dominate the characters’ interactions.

Daniel Evans’ direction allows the play to bridge fantasy and reality but remain grounded in the present. The presence of an actual superhero on stage is bold, and at times a little clunky, but when it works, it works very well. There is a hilarious moment where superheroes in garish costumes are suspended in mid-air, parroting the ridiculous exposition all too familiar in blockbuster sci-fi. There is also an incredible moment where David is enveloped by a giant cape, occupying most of the stage.

Rochenda Sandall as David’s sister Syd was a real standout. She navigated the complex emotional role with energy and passion. She was both moving and hilarious.

Joanna Scotcher’s set is dynamic and futuristic. A huge metallic screen takes up much of the stage, made up of intersecting triangles whose borders occasionally glow (thanks to Ryan Day’s thoughtful lighting design). This screen bursts apart to reveal a bedroom, a party and at one point an intergalactic meeting spot. Sometimes though it means the action is cramped onto a small part of the stage, making it uncertain whether the set dominated some of the directorial decisions. There is one particular set piece, involving a waterfall made of sand, which is striking and beautiful and incredibly memorable.

While it’s true that the play loses steam a bit in the second half, it is original and somehow manages to have a new angle on questions of representation. In terms of representation itself, it is interesting how revolutionary it feels to see three gay black men kissing on stage. And also, crucially, being allowed to laugh, as well as cry.


Reviewed on 22nd March 2023

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Johan Persson



Previously reviewed at this venue:


For Black Boys … | ★★★★★ | April 2022


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Gently Down the Stream

Park Theatre

Gently Down the Stream

Gently Down the Stream

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 17th February 2019



“deeply personal, yet universal; beautifully crafted, yet natural and full of love”


There are some extraordinary theatrical experiences that move you so much that you want everybody to share them. This is one of them. Gently Down the Stream is written from the heart with such genuine feeling and soul that it gets inside you, taking you on a journey full of laughter, tears and hopeful joy.

Martin Sherman wanted to write a play that looked at the changes in gay lifestyle during his lifetime, but couldn’t figure out how to go about it until, one day when shopping for groceries, he got the idea of setting the story around an intergenerational relationship. The play takes place in West London over a thirteen year period, from 2001 to 2014, starting at the beginning of the relationship between sixty two year old Beau and twenty-eight year old Rufus. Rufus’ desire to learn about Beau’s life and his experiences on the gay scene take the audience on a voyage from New Orleans, where he grew up, through New York, Paris and London, from the forties on. As the love between Beau and Rufus develops they deal with their own personal demons, against the background of memory and history, until Harry arrives in their lives and changes everything.

Sherman says “I would write about a generation of gay men – my generation – that was brought up to believe they weren’t allowed to love, who now had to deal with a young generation that had no doubt but that they had every right to love.” His writing is deeply personal, yet universal; beautifully crafted, yet natural and full of love.

Jonathan Hyde’s Beau is touching and very funny. Beau’s life story takes us through iconic moments in gay history and intensely personal memories, and Hyde thoroughly inhabits the role. If his accent seems, at times, to slip, it doesn’t matter. He is outstandingly real and believable. Rufus is played by Ben Allen with energy and charm. He breathes new life into Beau, showing him new possibilities as he learns about the past. Harry Lawtey brings humour and a delightful freshness to the role of Harry, changing the relationship between Beau and Rufus, and opening the way for other kinds of love.

Director Sean Mathias is a long term friend of the writer, and he has worked with Sherman and his cast to produce an unforgettable piece of theatre. The set, designed by Lee Newby, is a living room with a stairs leading to an upper hallway, a perfect home for Beau, giving a sense of his character through his furniture and possessions. Jamie Platt’s lighting and Lex Kosanke’s sound design meld together, adding to the atmospheric background of the play.

Gently Down the Stream is an important piece of work that tells a story that we need to know. A story of how gay men have come from a world where their lives and loves were illegal, to a world where they can marry and raise children together. There is still homophobia, there are still battles to be won, but this journey through a history that includes Stonewall and AIDS, is a triumphant one. In this play, that is universal and deeply personal, Beau, Rufus and Harry show us how love has many forms, and is at the heart of a life well lived.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Marc Brenner


Gently Down the Stream

Park Theatre until 16th March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018
And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dangerous Giant Animals | ★★★ | October 2018
Honour | ★★★ | October 2018
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019


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