Review - Arinzé Kene's Misty at Trafalgar Studios

Will Longman
Will Longman

One thing Misty makes clear is that Arinzé Kene is an unstoppable modern performer: his wit emanates though raps, which flow with ease and anger; his movement is impassioned, while his demeanour is personable and pretty hilarious. He stars in this epic piece of gig theatre, his examination of the gentrification of the city he loves, and how to write a play about it.

This is obviously a piece that Kene has mulled over for a very long time. We board a London bus with him, hearing about the 'viruses' taking over his city, infecting 'blood cells' who call it home. Soon, we're in Kene's head, listening to voicemail messages from friends concerned he's just "writing another n****r play".

While he's just trying to tell a story, a truth, he's still verging on the territory of a Black person in trouble; violent, and in trouble with the law, rather than a plot involving Black people that isn't about being Black.

Kene's articulates his frustrations through smart, concise rap and poetry, and it's difficult not to be enthused by what he has to say, whether it's about the gentrification of the city he loves - the viruses migrating to the city replacing community theatres with fancy cafes pricing out the people he loves - or how theatre and the arts treat work by Black artists.

Visually and audibly, Misty is brilliant. Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod perform the varied soundtrack, with from grime to Radiohead-esque rock pieces. Coke's drumming is particularly impressive - her solos are sublime.

Throughout the show, Kene appears with a number of different bright orange balloons, whether he is blowing one up with a leaf blower or around his head, or appearing inside a giant one, it gives him a chance to show off his natural comedic flair.

 Misty does seem to unravel in its final scenes. Kene leaps around the stage during an intense strobe light-filled assault on the senses before confessing he wasn't sure how to end the piece. His 'fuck it' attitude is endearing, but somewhat lazy writing.

Props should go to Trafalgar Studios too, by programming this and Nine Night - making Natasha Gordon the first black female playwright to have work staged in the West End - it's providing a truly diverse space in the heart of theatreland, as well as promoting the great work seen across London's fringe scene.

For me, Misty is an eye-opener, but admittedly,  Misty isn't for me. It's a voice and an outlet for people who feel wrongly-represented by mainstream London culture, as it's snatched away from them. Kene doesn't provide any answers, except for "chastise them", but he will make people sit up and listen.  

Misty is at Trafalgar Studios until 20th October.

Misty tickets are available now.

Originally published on

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