Arinzé Kene’s ‘Misty’ transfers to the West End its importance elevated

Arinzé Kene’s play ‘Misty’ is still an important moment in British Black arts … 

I’ve already reviewed Misty. I saw it during its run at the Bush Theatre and was breath taken at its power. After its sold out run because of people, like Kene’s friends Daniel Kaluuya & Anthony Welsh who went to see their homie’s work 4 times, Misty transferred to a much-coveted space in the West End.

Trafalgar Studios is the right type of intimate yet expansive setting for this tighter version of Kene’s thoughts visualised. This performance was hosted by actor/creatives Daniel Kaluuya and Anthony Welsh with the support of filmmaker Amandla Crichlow who pulled together some of their friends and to quote Daniel “cool people” to experience this necessary theatre… experience.

Nothing much has changed in Misty now its transferred. It is tighter as mentioned and there are a few creative alterations here and there. But it’s still Kene’s brutally honest realisation of the pressures of being a creative whilst black. The stress of telling our story with honesty, even if our honest story is one many of us are embarrassed by, angry with, depressed because of …

In the post play Q&A hosted by Kaluuya and Welsh, Kene revealed that Misty is based on a true intervention when during an early reading of the play, someone criticised him for writing an exploitatively stereotypical black play to feed its probable white audience glutton for black trauma (I paraphrase).

So many conversations I’ve had about the weight of responsibility of black creatives. Recently speaking to Femi Oyeniran writer/director of The Intent franchise. Can black people make a gangster thriller without worrying about the effect it has on our vulnerable young caught up in gang warfare? Can a rap artist make a gangster song and not feel guilty that the victim of a knife crime was a fan of Drill? Can an artist come out as gay and not be shamed for feeding into the ‘agenda against black reproduction’? Can a reviewer review something that they didn’t like without feeling the conflict that the power of their words may stop a brotha or a sista getting future work in an industry where black people aren’t allowed to fail?

Kene, still with the support of the phenomenal Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod, who double up as backing band and central characters to the narrative – seriously they’re amazing, tries to answer all I’ve posited above. What’s more striking second time around is the depths of creativity that Kene has delivered. The soundtrack to his madness is a narrative in itself. There’s going to be a moment when you go to see this play when it hits you that not only did Kene come up with this extremely introspective piece, he also worked with Coke and McLeod to compose new original music to soundtrack the narrative with songs that blur the lines between reggae, rap, rock, spoken word with some otherworldliness sprinkled atop.

After the play and the Q&A there was a gathering of mostly British Black creatives, buzzing with what they’d just seen, buzzing with what they’ve got coming up – there were Olivier award-winning, Oscar-nominated, Hollywood recognised, British TV dominating British Black creatives soaking up the glory of what Kene had created.

It was a pause for relish moment.

All because of Arinze Kene dropping some ‘urban safari jungle shit‘.

My review still stands read it here

Misty runs at the Trafalgar Studios until 17th November 2018. Find out more and book your tickets here.


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