“Here is the city that we live in Notice that the city that we live in is alive Analyse our city and you’ll find that our city even has bodily features Our city’s organs function like any living creature Our city is a living creature And if you’re wise enough, you’ll know not all of us are blood cells… Some of us are viruses.”
When I came out of watching Arinzé Kene’s play Misty last week, I felt tired, emotional, elated, creative, empowered and also like I wanted to get viral and start shouting at any one of my people I could find, to go and book their tickets immediately.
Of course, I’m a fan of Mr. Kene. His career as an actor, playwright, screenwriter has seen him involved in many a great production (Girl From The North Country, The Pass, Youngers, Crazyhead, good dog, God’s Property). He is one of British Black arts’ favourite sons. Yet life is busy and when I heard about his solo play at Bush Theatre, I filed it away on my mental ‘to-do-list’, not really confident it would move off that onto the ‘actually-gonna-deffo-do’ list. If not for a friend who made me get a ticket, forcing me out of busy life I may have missed witnessing an important moment in British Black arts.
Purposefully avoiding reading anything about the production, I had no idea what to expect.
Misty is Kene’s introspection of the external projection of his environment at large onto him. The way he presents it is like a visual brain dump of thoughts and frustrations. Cleverly done. His weaving of reality, imagination, and moments of emotional clarity is delivered to us with wit, humour and heartbreaking realism. It’s a one-man show kinda because Kene dominates the narrative but he’s supported by the brilliant Shiloh Coke as ‘Donna’ / Drummer, Adrian McLeod as ‘Desmond’ / Pianist and who I’ll name ‘little big sister’ (Rene Powell / Mya Napolean).
Misty is a social war cry. It’s a black creative’s frustration at having to balance the weight of responsibility and making an honest piece of art. It even lightly considers the relationship between black boys and girls. Wrapped up in the inner city’s gentrification rebrand and the hopelessness of some young people’s futures.
There’s room for rewrite, sure. There’s room for improvement. He could change it. He could. There are moments when Misty is so on the nose. But Kene’s version of on the nose-ness makes perfect sense. Because it’s just so darned clever. Kene has left room for Misty to be unfinished. He convinces us that he’s not entirely sure if what he’s saying, what he’s showing, what he’s telling, no, preaching. No. Ranting to us is exactly what he wants to tell, show, preach, rant.
Yet it has to be because we’ve been invited to watch this brilliant piece of performance artistry.
In my opinion, Misty sits alongside, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s important novel, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.‘ Misty is an extension of that, maybe ‘Why This Black Man Who Just Wants to Create Art Can’t Just Create Art Because … Orange Balloon.’
Misty is directed by Bush Theatre Associate Director Omar Elerian (NASSIM, One Cold Dark Night, Islands) and will features an excellent original musical score performed live during the show.
Misty runs at the Bush Theatre until April 21st. Book tickets here.