Tag Archives: Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu

For Black Boys

For Black Boys …

★★★★★

Royal Court

For Black Boys

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy 

Royal Court Theatre – Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

 

Reviewed – 7th April 2022

★★★★★

 

“a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed”

 

This show is not just a bunch of moving parts, gathered together. This is a whole, a collective: the music informs the text informs the design informs the lighting informs the performances. And it all moves in perfect synchronicity.

Taking place in an unidentified safe space, these six Black Boys come from different families, different backgrounds, and yet they all feel the weight of the monolithic ‘Black Man’: A black man doesn’t cry, he doesn’t show any weakness, he doesn’t need love.

Each character has a chance to speak his piece, be that regarding primary or secondary school, paternal relationships, romance, further education, or inescapable violence. And each is received without judgement, without fear of rejection.

Considering it’s an entire play of exposition, you’d think it would get tired pretty quickly, but writer-director Ryan Calais Cameron shows the depths and widths of this subject, the many angles and refractions, and he finely laces what is incredibly serious and unsmiling with so much tenderness and humour. He’s not afraid to take a very sombre moment and morph it in to a joke and then back again, or vice versa. For example, Midnight (Kaine Lawrence) tells us how he lost his virginity when he was nine to his babysitter. It’s the sort of messed up story boys are made to feel they should brag about. But obviously Midnight is traumatised, and while he’s trying to downplay his trauma (“And I can see you lot looking at me like I’m a victim”) the group starts singing, “I just want you to know that you are really special” from Snoop Dog and Pharrell’s ‘Beautiful’. They start in earnest, gathering closer and closer, embracing him tight, eventually breaking into affectionate laughter.

This is just one of so many moments which aren’t simply one thing- funny or sad; silly or serious. And the performances reflect this atmospheric plurality: everyone is somehow both acutely self-aware and touchingly naïve; honest in their disagreements and yet open to change; able to flip a smile in to a grimace with one breath.

Obviously this safe space is a fantasy, but these characters are so multifaceted, their interactions so genuine, it feels like maybe there’s a future where this kind of open dialogue could really exist.

Anna Reid’s design works in perfect tandem with this idea, using bold block colours to create a space that is both welcoming and Utopian. Layered with Rory Beaton’s equally bold lighting design, it feels isolating and inclusive in turn, giving each character their moments of solitude and fraternity.

And the dancing, and the singing, and the almost jukebox-style curation of a flawless soundtrack. There is so much to wax lyrical about. Each performer is so in sync with his part, it feels like it must have been workshopped, but I don’t see how given that the script is basically an epic poem.

Such a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ali Wright

 


For Black Boys …

Royal Court Theatre until 30th April

 

Reviewed by Miriam this year:
Moulin Rouge! | ★★★ | Piccadilly Theatre | January 2022
She Seeks Out Wool | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | January 2022
Two Billion Beats | ★★★½ | Orange Tree Theatre | February 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | Wilton’s Music Hall | February 2022

 

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Sweet Like Chocolate Boy – 5 Stars

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018

★★★★★

“combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations”

 

The richness and complexity of Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s play, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’, and the artistry of this new production at the Jack Studio Theatre is hard to describe. Based on two boys who live in the same London borough in different eras, he breaks down stereotypes and, with true understanding of character, takes us into a world of merging lives, reality, fantasy and music which celebrates how the growth of Black British culture in the 90s has made it what it is today.

Mars is today’s youth. Street-wise, full of enthusiasm, imagination and confidence, he heads towards the girl of his dreams, only to be confronted by people who question his heart, head and vanity. Bounty is from the 90s. Quietly out of place in a politically electric climate, he wants and tries to be a part of the world he’s in. Andrew Umerah (Mars) and Michael Levi Fatogun (Bounty) give compelling performances, showing the strengths and vulnerabilities of their times – Bounty swept along by a powerful wave of Black identity, but unable to keep up and Mars living the strong cultural legacy of Bounty’s day, but struggling to find his own place. Fatogun also gives excellent portrayals as the policeman, ghost and, in particular, the frightening force of Fantasia’s dad as he challenges Mars’ feelings for his daughter. Umerah skilfully contrasts Mars with Bounty’s dad, Prophet (an American Black Panther type) and Bounty’s best friend, James, brought up to be the typical white racist of that time. Veronica Beatrice Lewis offers wonderfully colourful acting as the boisterous, self-assured Sandra who likes to tease Bounty’s meekness, the lovely, sincere Michele, Bounty’s first love and Fantasia, whose self-possessed nature Mars falls for.

Fynn-Aiduenu’s direction captures the vibrant energy of both today and the 90s with language, movement and music creating their own moments of drama and humour. As we enter the theatre, the DJ (Gabby Nimmo/Alice Fofana) presides and remains as a godly presence throughout. Sound (Shadé Joseph) and lighting (Bethany Gupwell) fit perfectly into the action, taking us slickly from one scene to another and the movement is ingeniously directed by Sean Graham while simple costumes (Tara Usher) effectively use minimal alterations and details to change persona.

‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’ combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations, innovative staging and plenty of garage and jungle to create a uniquely descriptive and unforgettable experience.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Aaron Kelly

 


Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre until 17th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fear and Misery of the Third Reich | ★★★ | January 2018
The Tempest | ★★★½ | February 2018
Stuffed | ★★★★ | March 2018
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018

 

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