Black Superhero review: New queer drama explores what happens when hero worship turns sour

Danny Lee Wynter and Dyllón Burnside (Pose) star in Black Superhero, an ambitious, sexy play about a queer life in crisis.

David (Wynter, who also writes Black Superhero) is a queer, Black actor whose chances for greatness are fading as he nears 40. His distinct lack of fame and fortune is made all the more stark by the world-conquering success of his friend King (Dyllón Burnside, Pose’s Ricky). Known to the public as the Marvel-eqsue superhero, Craw, King is every inch the heartthrob – and it’s clear from the off that David’s feelings for his friend are complicated. When King announces that he’s opened his marriage, things quickly get messy between the two.

Black Superhero a play about daddy issues, about how abuse creates a gap that needs desperately filling, and about the different ways to be queer, and specifically queer and Black.

It’s not all as heavy as it sounds – this is a funny, funny play. The dialogue is sharp, the characters speak, for the most part, like the people you bump into in the smoking area, or at the chill out. It has a lot to say about race and queerness – a highlight comes when it sends up the liberal, middle class white boyfriend/ally to side-splitting effect.

But Wynter is prone to heavy-handed monologuing, with lengthy speeches about representation, queer-baiting and authenticity. The script is far more effective in the moments when it shows, not tells.

While it strives to make points, sometimes it’s just about a group of young(ish) queer Black folk living and loving. In parts Black Superhero is hot. Very hot. Of the two bedroom scenes that bookend the story, the first zips, as the best sex often does, between sexy, funny, sweet and absolutely absurd.

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The second comes at the bottom of David’s spiral, containing devastating revelations about his past, and why he is the way he is. The scene – the entire play, really – could very easily not work, walking a tight line between flashy and introspective. It pulls it off thanks to a uniformly excellent set of performances, with Rochenda Sandall (the Stephen Graham season of Line of Duty) a particular highlight as David’s long-suffering sister, bolstered by inventive stagecraft. While you don’t walk away with any real sense of resolution, you’ll have a lot to think about.

Black Superhero is at the Royal Court Theatre until 29 April.

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