Ryan Cameron

What are the themes of your play?

Retrograde explores identity, resilience, and integrity as it investigates what is the true measure of a great man. The play also focuses on institutionalised racism and power structures within the entertainment industries and asks the question of how much have we really evolved, or is history bound to repeat itself?

Why did you write it and why now?

In the early 1950’s, the “Hollywood Blacklist” – was an infamous list of entertainers who were singled out and blacklisted for their political leanings and associations (specifically the Communist Party), whether they were proven or just suspected. The movement damaged careers and friendships, and promoted ideological censorship across the entire industry. People were literally running scared.

I have read a lot of literature about the Hollywood blacklist but had never seen it through the gaze of a Black artist and that immediately upped the stakes for me.

In Retrograde Sidney Poitier is forced to make the biggest decision of his life. Sign the contract, be rich be successful, shut his mouth, play the game, but be known as a sell-out (Uncle Tom) or refuse, be black-listed, and broke, but remain a pillar of his community and stand for what he truly believes in?

Sidney Poitier is a man that always defied the odds, a man that was ahead of his time, going against the grain. To me Sidney was, and is, a symbol of great integrity and after reading an interview in which Sidney speaks candidly about the meeting he had with NBC I knew this was a story that needed to be dramatized.  It just felt so timely as a Black artist navigating the cultural pressures of the industry, attempting to find my own way and what I truly want to stand for.

Which playwrights are you influenced by and why?

Roy Williams, debbie tucker green, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, David Mamet, Arinze Kene, are all writers that have given me insight into how and why this is worth doing; people that have set pace and challenged perceptions of what a play can be.

What do you want to achieve as a playwright?

I want to continue to create room for myself and other creatives to have ownership over our own narratives, I don’t ever wish to be compromised in my version of my truth and to be able to find sustenance in that.