Misty at Trafalgar Studios
A couple of things to consider when deciding if Arinzé Kene’s Misty is for you: first, do not see this show if you suffer from globophobia (that’s the fear of balloons, especially ones that are likely to pop). And secondly, if you like theatre that seeks to illustrate, “this is how the world feels for me; do you understand?”, you’ll be very content.
Kene, writer and performer, wants to tell his friend’s tale. It takes a fight on the bus as its start, then moves on to the brutality of getting kicked out of your home, of being let down by loved ones and finally getting punished by the police. Throughout, it traces the spread of “the virus”: the steady and all-consuming onslaught of gentrification.
Kene is full of questions. How can he write what he wants to write as a black man when the weight of people’s specific expectations hang so heavy? What constitutes a “black play” and by extension, what is a “white play”? Misty transfers to Trafalgar Studios after a sell-out run at Bush Theatre which it seemed nobody could stop talking about. It’s not a story you will have seen in the West End before. The audience looks different too, a more mixed black and white turnout than is usual in the area. It begs the question, what is London theatre doing wrong that this sight is so unusual? Why is so much of the main commercial theatres’ output appealing to such a narrow demographic?
The production is impressively slick. Direction by Omar Elerian, along with video design by Jackie Shemash, creates a series of emphatic moments, from shadows against walls to great swathes of moving colour projected onto screens and the ever more numerous orange balloons.
Kene’s spoken word is full of thoughts to relish and phrases that resound. What he has to say is always accessible, human and real. There is explosive anger and there is dejected disappointment. As a performer, he has a fearsome energy. One spoken word piece hikes up to full falsetto, more an anguished cry than a song.
A galvanising demand for change, Misty is a tour de force. Even out in the theatre bar during the interval, there’s a buzz in the air that seems to mark the night out as the beginning of something new. With so much soul and frustration bubbling through it, this show is as unbearably taut as those orange balloons.
Photo: Helen Murray
Misty is at Trafalgar Studios from 8th September until 20th October 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Listen to City Creature from Misty here: