There’s no shortage of White queer stories told on the stage, says one of the characters in Danny Lee Wynter’s debut play, BLACK SUPERHERO, while comparing that to the lack of Black queer stories on those same stages. But this superb new play, now at the Royal Court, may be the first small step in correcting that imbalance.
The audience are introduced to a group of friends, all actors, who are at very different points in their careers. David, played by playwright Danny Lee Wynter, works for his younger sister and earns a living doing kids parties. Raheem (Eloka Ivo) has had moderate success on screen, but it’s in the success of King (Dyllón Burnside) in which they all bask.
King has found fame playing a superhero on the big screen, his character of Craw – a kind of Marvel type character, has fans all over the world, meaning King has a voice that other members of the group do not. Perhaps David’s voice has the potential to be the most powerful of them all, but he has too much history holding him back.
In the opening scene, outside a nightclub, King admits that he’s in an open marriage, and tells David he’d always hoped something would happen between them. Instead of giving David the confidence he so badly needs, it hastens the descent of someone who is clearly struggling.
Wynter has struck a wonderful balance with BLACK SUPERHERO; the play is wildly funny but also dark and deeply thought provoking. When David talks about representation, he does so from a place of authenticity, and many aspects of the plot have a deeper resonance than it might first appear.
Wynter is able to playfully and innovatively explore themes that other playwrights may shy away from, and the blending of reality with the superhero world adds an extra dimension, even if it does sometimes dilute the heavier themes. It’s also a very visually appealing production thanks to Joanna Scotcher’s design. The relatively simple monochrome set comprised of diamond shapes comes to life with Ryan Day’s lighting design, and in the second act a cascading waterfall of sand creates a stunning look.
Daniel Evans taught direction gives the talented cast all the tools they need to bring these richly drawn characters to life. Rochenda Sandall is particularly strong as Syd, David’s sister, who has more to deal with than we might originally realise, Sandall also has some of the more comedic lines which go down well with the audience.
Dyllón Burnside is a confident King, capturing the essence of a film star that appears shy but revels in the attention. Sex plays an important role in this production, but it’s beautifully done and is sensual without being graphic.
There’s a lot going on in BLACK SUPERHERO, but there’s also much to enjoy and savour; the brutally funny script lulls the audience into a false sense of security before hitting them with uncomfortable truths, no more so than in a heartfelt monologue delivered by Wynter’s David.
BLACK SUPERHERO is a funny, sexy, and vital piece of theatre. A powerful debut from a very talented writer which revives traditional storytelling with an altogether more exciting and fresh approach.
BLACK SUPERHERO is at Royal Court Theatre until 29th April 2023.