Short but sharp, Ryan Calais Cameron’s Human Nurture is uncompromisingly frank about racism at the Soho Theatre
“It’s not about what you’ve been through — it’s about what you’ll never have to go through”
There’s something to be said about being direct when it comes to getting your message across. And for Theatre Centre, with their focus on theatre for young people, creating a show that works in both theatres and schools that is particularly true. So if Ryan Calais Cameron’s Human Nurture comes across as being a little didactic at times, you could wonder whether that is necessarily a bad thing here.
His play, directed well by Rob Watt, centres on Harry and Roger, kids who grew up in care in Yorkshire together and tight as brothers can be, their difference in race not seeming to matter. But after Roger is adopted, moved to London and then reunited with his Ugandan uncle, an unexpected reunion for Harry’s 18th birthday exposes the rifts in their relationship which extend far beyond geography into race and socioeconomics.
For where Roger has been able to embrace his heritage, reclaiming his birth name Runaku, and tracking an upwardly mobile trajectory, Harry has fallen with a dodgy crowd of older, overtly racist men. And as the lads reconnect over shared memories of the past, talk soon turns to challenges of the present. Harry has been spouting off on TikTok about white privilege and as a care leaver with a black best friend, he knows what he’s talking about, yeah?
Thus Calais Cameron allows his play to give an eloquent lesson in precisely what white privilege is and how in order to truly understand it, white people need to listen. It is persuasively done and Justice Ritchie and Lucas Button perform it compellingly as they impressively construct this believable and complex relationship. If this play were something else then yes, you would wish for Runaku’s character to be developed more. But there’s a point trying to be made here and Human Nurture makes it very well.