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Black Men Walking review at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – ‘powerful, political, lyrical’

Tonderai Munyevu, Tyrone Huggins and Trevor Laird in Black Men Walking at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. Photo: Tristram Kenton Tonderai Munyevu, Tyrone Huggins and Trevor Laird in Black Men Walking at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. Photo: Tristram Kenton

“We walk”: chant Thomas, Matthew and Richard, repeatedly and rhythmically, as they walk through a landscape that is often perceived as “not for black people”.

These men are part of a black men’s walking group who meet monthly. They see it as a space for personal growth. On this occasion a terrible snow storm turns their walk into a truly cathartic experience.

Based on a real-life walking group, Black Men Walking, by rapper Testament for Eclipse Theatre, is a journey, both through the Peaks and though centuries’ worth of history – the kind you won’t find in the majority of UK secondary curriculum textbooks.

Each of the men’s experiences are explored. They discuss challenging personal relationships and black manhood. Add to this mix the voice of a black female millennial and the sheer complexity of the black British experience begins to unfold.

Testament’s writing is linguistically dazzling, full of punchy humour and poetic charm. Each character is carefully crafted – they are honest depictions of modern, woke Black men brought to life by talented performers. Tyrone Huggins’ desperation is juxtaposed with Tonderai Munyevu’s comic timing, while Trevor Laird’s rendition of Public Enemy’s Fight the Power is a particular pleasure to watch. Dorcas Sebuyange delivers compelling soliloquies with striking physicality.

Ably directed by Dawn Walton, this is an important, political, poignant work that dismantles stereotypes and proudly presents the complex identities of black British people. It doesn’t just reclaim space but asserts our right to it.

Eclipse Theatre: the company making strides in telling black Britain’s lost stories

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Verdict
Powerful and lyrical theatre about what it is to be black and British
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