Black Super Hero, Royal Court, 2023
Photo: Johan Persson
  • Theatre, Drama
  • Recommended


‘Black Superhero’ review

3 out of 5 stars

Danny Lee Wynter writes and stars in this messy but very funny dark comedy about a man embarking on an ill-advised affair with his superstar friend


Time Out says

This messy but entertaining dark comedy sees actor Danny Lee Wynter make his debut as a playwright and also star as David, an awkward, hangdog gay Black actor whose ‘career’ has led to him working as a children’s party entertainer for his sister Syd (Rochenda Sandall).

His lack of success is particularly galling when contrasted with his friends. There’s buff, disciplined Raheem (Eloka Ivo), whose career is going well and love-life even better (he’s on elite dating app Raya, no less). And in a whole different league, there’s King (Dyllón Burnside), who is the star of a major superhero movie franchise and seems to have the world at his feet. David, however, is like the ghost at the feast: glumly refusing to drink or do drugs with them, dourly complaining about their aversion to using their platforms to publicly raise issues affecting the gay or Black communities, critiquing their directors for not being Black or gay enough.

It’s a sprawling and mercurial play that frequently feels like it could have done with a round or two more with a dramaturg. But Daniel Evans’s production is given a sense of coherence by Wynter’s wickedly funny writing – some of the more genuinely outrageous one-liners bring the house down – and also Wynter’s own grounding performance. It would be pushing it to describe David as a Candide-like innocent. But there is an endearingly everyman-like quality to his refusal to have a sexy good time, that’s only magnified as he embarks upon an ill-advised dalliance with his old friend King – who has decreed that his marriage is now open – and heads off to Australia to join him on a press junket.

The main problem with ‘Black Superhero’ is that it doesn’t know if it wants to be a gritty, intimate small-scale dark comedy about a complicated group of gay Black friends, or a much bigger, sweeping showbiz satire thing. Trips to Australia and wild fantasy sequences involving King in his superhero guise are all very entertaining, but it feels like the issues at hand – gay monogamy, absent fathers, performative Black masculinity, gay and Black role models, David’s alluded-to breakdown – might have been better dealt with at the smaller scale.

Don’t get me wrong: King is an empathetically written character, and ‘Pose’ star Burnside gives a fine performance as a gay Black man trying to negotiate the minefield of being a public figure while keeping a private life for himself. There is a brilliantly horrible sequence where he’s mercilessly interrogated by a gay white Australian journalist who seems to almost have no recognition of his humanity. But I can’t help but feel there are perhaps two separate plays here, or one that would have been stronger with a lot more delineation of David’s and King’s stories. (For what it’s worth, the fact that the show is directed by a white man – which it seems likely David would disapprove of – feels under-interrogated.)

‘Black Superhero’ is messy and over-ambitious, but it’s empathetic and perceptive. Crucially, it’s also funny and entertaining, which aren’t always qualities one associates with the Royal Court these days. With some actors-turned-writers, you immediately sense they’ve hit the limit of their range, but if Wynter were an unknown, he’d be a real name to watch for the future. 


£12-£49. Runs 2hr 20min
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