The Ancient Greeks invented theatre as escapist entertainment and civic engagement, encouraging Greeks to become more moral by processing the most important issues of the day through both tragedy and satire. Easily said, difficult to achieve and yet you will have undoubtedly experienced productions that have made you think long and hard. Here is another. The West End has until now been almost a no-go zone for stories that have Black men at their core. So, imagine hearing about For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy (Garrick Theatre). Originally staged at The New Diorama Theatre in late 2021, it returns having played to sell out audiences at The Royal Court and Apollo. Ask yourself the question – what is your immediate reaction to reading that title and has it made you more or less likely to want to see it?
Writer Ryan Calais Cameron said in a recent interview – “I always feel like black men are conditioned not to articulate our emotions…It felt very desperate, this need to start talking about our feelings in whatever form that might take.” The form it takes is six young men – Jet, Midnight, Obsidian, Onyx Pitch and Sable – getting together for a group therapy session, during which they reveal the good, the bad and the ugly of what it feels like being a young Black man in Britain today. Episodic and entertaining, imagine being allowed the time and space by a therapist to express yourself in any way you wish, to let go of all that emotion, heartache and joy. This is compelling storytelling from and of the street which will strike a chord in ways that may surprise you, using a range of art forms, including poetry, song, dance, rap and powerful monologues.
Shakeel Haakim’s Pitch, looking at his hands, describes being on the outside of his community – “I guess I’m just not Black enough to be Black.” That question of hue for people of colour is one that has not gone away, nor too the difficulty of being Black and gay. They say that actions speak louder than words and Fela Lufadeju (Jet) and Albert Magashi (Sable) perform a beautifully expressive piece of choreography that poignantly captures that challenge. Then there are moments of unbridled joy and celebration as they sing in unison with beautiful harmonies, songs that I didn’t recognise but connected with many in the audience. Meanwhile Midnight (Posi Marakinyo) and Magashi’s Sable provide humour and lightheartedness. As we laugh out loud we also know that they are laughing at themselves at the ridiculousness of their own behaviour. So much so that several people in the audience audibly expressed their own view as they did pretty much throughout. It reminded me of the first time I toured Cyprus in towns and villages where the audience continually shouted out, like a running commentary of expression. Long may that continue, for surely that is what the Ancient Greeks wanted.
This is a superb production, with six brilliantly authentic and skilled performances, that must be seen. It will strike a chord with working class boys and their families, of all hues.

One man’s dream of creating a National Health Service, which became a reality in 1948, is dramatised by Tim Price in his new play Nye (National Theatre). It is an excellent piece of work, educational without being preachy, surprising, moving and peppered with moments of fun and wonderful Welsh wit. Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan is often referred to as the politician with the greatest influence on our country without ever being Prime Minister. Price shows us an aging Bevan on the verge of dying reflecting on a life, well lived and well fought, from childhood to mining, episodes in Parliament and his many battles with Churchill. It is kaleidoscopic and unrelenting in its passion and gamut of emotions and Michael Sheen’s portrayal of the man is all consuming, which gets to the heart and soul of an incredible character.
The simple set design is effective and evocative with the NHS style light green curtains becoming hospital ward divisions and then a classroom, the House of Commons and more. Similarly, the minimal lighting brings to life the sparkling underground of the coal face, denoting the magic of fossils and power of the sea embedded in the coal. Mesmerising are the projections of everyday people needing medical care onto said curtains, poignant and indicative of an institution for and by the people. The final scene, when Bevan realises he is about to die but his NHS is alive and kicking is sad but a moment of great inspiration.

James McVinnie appears diminutive as he approaches the seat of the impressive Royal Festival Hall organ. This one-off concert opened with a selection of secular court dance and chanson arrangements from the 16th century showing a tender and stylistic opening to the recital. However, McVinnie showed us all the facets of this diverse and impressive world-famous instrument from the slightest ethereal slither of sound to the awe-inspiring earth vibrating sensation when he pulls out all the stops. The call and response in Sweelinck’s Fantasia in echo style showed a deliciously contrasted change in voices and registers. And he held is own in demonstrating the heavenly architecture of the Bach, playing parts with finesse, style and balance and then the spiritual aspects of Bohm’s Vater Unser Himmelreich raised us to the firmaments. We were then taken on a musical rollercoaster ride: Buxtehude’s imposing Praeludium in F sharp minor is a perfect example of fantasy styled music in which McVinnie really demonstrated his sense of showmanship, virtuosity with all pipes vibrating, rich bass sounds followed by eerie silences. Only one criticism, the audience were hungry for more, but no encore was offered. Until next time…

A few days ago while eating a slightly overrated sourdough pizza from a franchise that I won’t name, I overheard a conversation between two extremely loud, moderately drunk men. One of them, laughing, asked the other “why would you move to West London? What even is there to do?” This to me is a no-brainer, the answer, of course is go to whatever the Lyric Hammersmith has on, immediately. They have been consistently knocking it out of the park, for years now, and their new offering, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer is no exception. It is a sequence of four monologues delivered by three characters – the titular Faith Healer, Frank Hardy (Declan Conlon), his long-suffering wife Grace (Justine Mitchell) and his manager, Teddy (Nick Holder). As the characters recount their time working in ‘dying Welsh villages’ and tiny Scottish towns, a slew of contradictions begin to surface – what one character recounts as a hostile exchange is described by another as benign, people are unable to agree who spoke at a funeral, and slowly you notice that everyone is avoiding talking about – something. It’s a long play – 2hrs 45, and it earns it; Friel builds suspense from the first word to the last, helped immensely by Conlon’s standout performance. I cannot recommend this play highly enough; run don’t walk!

Black Boys’ –
Nye –
Faith Healer –

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