EXCLUSIVE: Dyllón Burnside, star of Ryan Murphy shows Pose, American Horror Story and Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, will make his London stage debut in Black Superhero, the debut play from British actor, activist and playwright Danny Lee Wynter.
Florida-born Burnside will play King, a Black, queer movie star “with the world at his feet”, Wynter told The Hamden Journal.
King is “an out, global film star,” Wynter added. “He’s open about his sexuality but he’s not open about his private life, about whom he dates,” Wynter explained.
Burnside character King plays a superhero called Craw in the show that will run at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs located in Chelsea’s Sloane Square from March 14 through April 29. Official opening night is March 21.
Wynter, who is also starring in Black Superhero, made his mark in TV drama Joe’s Palace with Michael Gambon and Kelly Reilly and Capturing Mary opposite Maggie Smith and Ruth Wilson – both written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff. Wynter’s résumé incudes extensive theater work, most recently at the National Theatre in The Normal Heart for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Olivier Award nomination.
Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone has tasked director Daniel Evans with getting the drama up on its feet and Evans is a huge get. Currently creative chief of the Chichester Festival Theatre he will soon exit his West Sussex base to share the post of Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company with Tamara Harvey, who currently holds the artistic leadership role at Theatr Clwyd in northeast Wales.
Wynter said that Evans was the first person he sent the Black Superhero script to. He’s believes that he’s on the precipice of something with his new work. It’s about a group of Black queer friends, Wynter told The Hamden Journal. Three of them are close: “One of them has got everything he wants, the other is on the brink of getting everything he wants, and the protagonist of the play, who probably has the lowest status, has seen no shift in his own life or career,” he said.
Wynter was referring to King, played by Burnside. Others featuring in the play include Raheem, an actor on the rise, played by gifted thespian Eloka Ivo (Avenue 5), and David, who works for his kid sister as a kids’ entertainer. That part will be played by Wynter. Line of Duty star Rochenda Sandall plays David’s younger sibling.
Black Superhero is described as a love letter to theater. Evans said that when he read it he could feel Wynter’s “20 years of being in the profession,” adding: “It’s like he’s absorbed the best of all the playwrights he’s admired across his career and channelled them.”
Evans and Wynter are old friends. The budding dramatist worked as an usher at the Royal Court over two decades ago while Evans was performing in a play there. “It’s a full circle moment with Daniel,” Wynter noted. Twenty years ago he had asked Evans, winner of two Best Actor Olivier awards, for professional advice. They later worked together on the Act For Change Project, a charitable organisation advocating for diversity in the arts, of which Wynter was a founder.
The play gives voice to a group of people who haven’t been seen much on stage, Evans said, referring to Black queer men.
“I don’t want that to sound worthy because actually he’s also written a play that’s very funny and also incredibly moving,” Evans stated. “And very sexy.”
At its heart, however, Evans believes his friend’s play “is really exploring masculinity, Black masculinity and queer masculinity.”
“I am drawn to work that is pushing the conversation forward, expanding our ideas about what it means to be Black,” added Burnside.
“This piece is something daring, bold, epic and funny. It has a lot of heart and deals with a lot of dramatic things that we don’t always talk about. Audiences should be prepared to be confronted.”
Burnside will rehearse in London from late January with other members of the company.
Late last year he wrapped on the Broadway production of Keenan Scott II’s play Thoughts of A Colored Man. He also shot the movie Wild Goat Surf , the feature directorial debut of filmmaker, actress and producer Caitlyn Sponheimer.
The show is designed by Joanna Scotcher, with costume design by Kinnetia Isidore, lighting design by Ryan Day and sound design by Tingying Dong. Gerrard Martin is movement director and Yarit Dor is the intimacy coordinator. Matthew IIiffe is assistant director with Zoe Thomas-Webb taking on duties as associate costume designer /costume superviser. The full Black Superhero cast is: Ben Allen(Breeders), Burnside; Dominic Holmes (Industry); Ivo, Wynter; Ako Mitchell (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) and Rochenda Sandall (Line of Duty, Small Axe) playing the role of David’s younger sibling.