Black Superhero at The Royal Court Theatre

David (Danny Lee Wynter) is in love with King, however, King seems to be in love with everyone and no one; not a great prognosis. Black Superhero is a journey into the self, exploring intimacy, relationships and our past.

Dyllón Burnside and Danny Lee Wynter in Black Superhero. © Johan Persson.
Dyllón Burnside and Danny Lee Wynter in Black Superhero. © Johan Persson.

King (Dyllón Burnside) plays a superhero, and as is the way at the moment experiences astronomical fame,  but they are in an open relationship. The story of this play is about David and King’s relationship; from a one-night stand to being flown out to accompany King through press junkets, culminating in an encounter with the very character King plays.

Wynter’s writing is very funny, it is sharp, and culturally relevant and knows where to lay emphasis. Underneath the comedy lie many different complex discussions, about representation, responsibility and privacy. The discussions themselves are very interesting, but the writing undermines their depth of them. Often Wynter knows what he wants to say, and rather than weaving it into character & story, it is dumped into the middle of a scene. Also, the characters are a little too simple, an inappropriate producer cynical of representation, a smarmy sycophantic pr representative, the list goes on. But maybe I am underestimating Wynter, and that the entire play exists in one perspective and thus caricatures arise, rather than nuanced characters.

The writing takes interesting and ambitious steps to divulge from naturalism, with dream-like sequences blurring the lines of the literal and symbolic.

Performances all around are good, if occasionally a little one-dimensional. The cast all work well together, with strong comedic instincts and an ability to dramatically shift the tone of a scene well.

It is a play about queer stories, about black stories. It is commenting on how we often get one or the other, so choose to make both and comment on the making of both. Which adds an interesting layer. But perhaps the hubristic ambition of this piece is its desire to cover a lot of complex issues. If you like the play you will say it is an intersectional approach to experiences, if you don’t like the play you will say it is a carousel of ten-minute nods to different issues. And as the final act rolls into view, it feels as though too much is packed in and moments aren’t given room to breathe, which is a shame because there are some very strong moments.

All in all, I think this is a good play. The story it tells is an interesting one and not one that gets stage time as much as other do. It explores relationships, the past, and trauma. The form of the play is nothing radical, but it works well enough.

3 stars

Review by Tom Carter

No one. No dark knight in shining armour. Went through all my twenties thinking ‘don’t worry he’ll come.’ I’m almost forty now, and he still hasn’t, has he?

David is in love with King. But King is a superhero.

After an unexpected encounter, David plunges himself into a world of sex, drugs and hero worship in the hope of being rescued, until fantasy and reality merge with devastating consequences.

The Company
Danny Lee Wynter – WRITER/CAST
Ben Allen – CAST
Dyllón Burnside – CAST
Dominic Holmes – CAST
Eloka Ivo – CAST
Ako Mitchell – CAST
Rochenda Sandall – CAST

Daniel Evans – DIRECTOR
Joanna Scotcher – DESIGNER
Kinnetia Isidore – COSTUME DESIGNER
Ryan Day – LIGHTING DESIGNER
Tingying Dong – SOUND DESIGNER
Gerrard Martin – MOVEMENT DIRECTOR
Yarit Dor – INTIMACY DIRECTOR
Matthew Iliffe – ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Zöe Thomas-Webb – ASSOCIATE COSTUME DESIGNER / COSTUME SUPERVISOR
Annette Waldie – STAGE MANAGER
Mary O’Hanlon – DEPUTY STAGE MANAGER
Tayla Hunter – ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER

ROYAL COURT THEATRE
Sloane Square
London SW1W 8AS
Thu 16 Mar – Sat 29 Apr 2023
https://royalcourttheatre.com/