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Review: Black Men Walking, at Royal Court Theatre

Mystical play about Peak District hiking group moves smoothly between the personal and the poetic

29 March, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Tonderai Munyevu, Tyrone Huggins and Trevor Laird in Black Men Walking. Photo: Tristram Kenton

WRITTEN by rapper, beatboxer and theatre-maker Testament in a mix of poetry and prose that opens with ritual and ends mystical, Black Men Walking presents men who meet monthly to hike in the Peak District.

This time only three turn up: Jamaican-born Thomas (Tyrone Huggins) from Sheffield, near retirement, fed up with a desk job, a wife glued to the TV, their children moved down south; Matthew (Trevor Laird), a GP from Barnsley, born here of Jamaican parents, having marital problems; and Richard (Tonderai Munyevu), a younger Ghanaian, a computer-programmer who’s lived 15 years in Yorkshire, just back from a Star Trek convention.

With an opening chant – “We walk for freedom/ for honour/ for beauty/ for love/ to claim this land/ We walk OUR land” – they lay claim to this land as Yorkshiremen. Led by Thomas’s keen sense of history, they look back to black predecessors: a Tudor trumpeter, Roman legionaries, Emperor Septimus Severus from Africa, here “walking England before the English”. When they meet young rapper Ayeesha (Dorcas Sebuyange), still smarting from a racist encounter, she scorns their fascination with history – that’s not the way to change things to counter those who say “Go back where you come from.”

As the mists envelop them and the ancestors seem more present to Thomas, things get dangerous and even more mystical. The writing moves smoothly between the personal and the poetic, but in also using Sebuyange as a sort of spirit of place before the men meet, and recurrently after, director Dawn Walton is awkwardly ambiguous.

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