By Jay Darcy
Olivier nominee Danny Lee Wynter began his professional career whilst ushering at the Royal Court Theatre. All these years later, he is back with his debut play, Black Superhero.
“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.
Black Superhero is a brutal, unflinching and funny portrait of one man’s life spiralling out of control, in an age where our idols are Kings and our superheroes Gods.
Wynter is best-known for playing Joe in the BBC films Joe’s Palace and Capturing Mary. He has also appeared in a couple of episodes of Partners in Crime. Onstage, he was nominated for an Olivier Award for the London revival of The Normal Heart (which had its European premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in the 1980s). I previously saw (and reviewed) him in a gender-swapped production of The Maids in Manchester.
The eponymous Black superhero is played by Emmy winner Dyllón Burnside, who is making his London stage debut in this production. Burnside is best-known for playing Ricky in Pose, an acclaimed television series which similarly focused on queer people of colour. He then starred in two more Ryan Murphy television series: as James in American Horror Stories (episode: ‘The Naughty List’) and as the real-life Ronald Flowers in Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. He won an Emmy for Prideland – a documentary which he produced and presented.
Pose is one of my favourite television series, and I have been a fan of Burnside for some years now, so I especially look forward to seeing him onstage.
Black Superhero is directed. by Daniel Evans, whose direction sees the culmination of a 20-year working relationship between himself and Danny Lee Wynter – and his first time directing for the Royal Court Theatre.
Danny Lee Wynter said: “I am deeply honoured that the Royal Court has chosen to stage my debut play, Black Superhero. I feel lucky to have this extraordinarily accomplished group of artists come together to tell this story about a messy, funny, complicated, often savage group of queer friends who drive a man towards his own journey of healing and self acceptance. I wanted to write a big, epic story that asks difficult questions about who and where we are.
Black Superhero is a love letter to the theatre. A subversion of the historical notion that a black, gay man – both in art and the world – is merely an adjunct, a side-note, an unserious man or a source only of amusement. He can, of course, be fun, but he’s also many other things; things the world has made him; things he has learnt to be for his own survival.
I wanted to place him front and centre at the heart of the kind of narrative that many of us brown boys who like men have, for the most part, been culturally starved of since we entered the world. I have tried to present his myriad flaws, his fears, his sensuality, his intimate desires. To celebrate him, and those like him, by ultimately allowing him to own all of it; by becoming the hero of his own story.”
Black Superhero began its run at Royal Court Theatre on March 16. It runs until April 29.
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