Royal Court Theatre, London – until 29 April 2023
“I’m holding out for a hero” is Bonnie Tyler’s famous song, and it could be the theme tune for David (Danny Lee Wynter) in Black Superhero. He’s long held a torch for friend King (Dyllón Burnside), who is playing superhero Craw in a low-brow movie franchise.
“I trained at Julliard,” he moans while secretly enjoying being recognised. When King reveals that he and his travel-writer husband Steven (Ben Allen) have decided on an open relationship, David is a beneficiary of King’s new liberal sleeping arrangements. But can David keep himself together long enough not to screw up the one thing he’s dreamed about?
Wynter’s debut play bursts onto the stage with banter and bitching between David, his sister Syd (Rochenda Sandall) and friend Raheem (Eloka Ivo), who are supposed to be on a night out with King.
It sets a crisp pace and witty tone with sharp one-liners as relationships and sex – particularly each other’s – getting dissected. Acting and theatre also fall in the crosshairs with quips about long plays and an all-black Hamlet directed by a white woman with everyone singing Negro spirituals.
David moans about his acting career; he is auditioning for Horatio when he wants to play Hamlet. He also argues about representation and tokenism in casting and yearns for gay stories that aren’t so gloomy. And Black Superhero certainly isn’t gloomy.
It does go to some darker places in the less pacy second half, although David’s unravelling is obviously going to be a ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Thank goodness for straight-talking Syd, who delivers a few home truths to her mopey sibling. I’d have liked a teeny bit more of Syd.
The conclusion to the story feels like it is stumbled upon rather than hard-won. Where it is strongest is in the rapid dialogue, sharp wit and observation – it definitely passes the six laugh test. But by contrast, the more serious moments seem flat and lack a similar punch.
It’s certainly an entertaining play, but that doesn’t entirely hide its problems.
I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half.
BLACK SUPERHERO, Royal Court Theatre
Written by Danny Lee Wynter
Directed by Daniel Evans
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including an interval
Booking until 29 April; for more details and to book tickets, visit the Royal Court Theatre website
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