Review: BLACK SUPERHERO, Royal Court

Danny Lee Wynter’s BLACK SUPERHERO throws up some fascinating debates at the Royal Court

“I ain’t the one on other side of the planet chasin some grown-arse fuck-boy who pretends to fly about in latex for a livin”

Danny Lee Wynter’s debut play BLACK SUPERHERO arrives at the Royal Court with a swish of a cape, ripped abs aplenty and the tightest of black latex underwear. As a study of Black and queer masculinity, it has a lot to say, almost too much at times, but Wynter’s way with a killer one-liner is an absolute saving grace which makes this raucously entertaining at times.

Wynter plays David, a struggling actor who is auditioning for Horatios rather than Hamlets and currently working as a kid’s party entertainer with his sister (a magnificent Rochenda Sandall). Matters aren’t helped by his friend group ratcheting up successes in their lovelives and careers, not least with King, who has landed the lead in a Marvel-esque franchise – an actual Black superhero.

A night in a Clapham gay club unleashes long-heldback impulses and as King declares his marriage open and David delves right into literal hero worship, they head off to Australia on a press junket where temperatures only rise. Probing into masculinity, mental health and monogamy, all through a queer perspective, Wynter raises all manner of debates before settling on a dramatic throughline.

There are moments when you wonder if some of these debates could have been better finessed into the play. Pursuing heteronormative societal structures, ethical responsibilities to be out and proud role models, white people directing Black plays, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, there’s so much in here and so much of it is so funny, but it also feels like any number of them could be lifted right out without too much loss.

What really strikes home is the callousness of a gay journalist interrogating Dyllón Burnside’s sensitively drawn King on how public (or not) he chooses to be about his sexuality; and the late-arriving revelations about David’s life that reshape so much our understanding and sympathy for him – Sandall and Ako Mitchell shine brilliantly but differently as they interact with Wynter here.

Daniel Evans’ production has a delicious slickness to it: Joanna Scotcher’s angular set design full of layers and flying surprises; and Ryan Day’s lighting conjuring up striking and seductive atmospheres aplenty. And for all that I’ve said about the amount of debates, the meandering conversational vibe is so enjoyable to watch, laugh with and envy (unless your friends already look like that!).

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Johan Persson
BLACK SUPERHERO is booking at the Royal Court until 29th April

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