BWW Review: MISTY, Trafalgar Studios
Are you a virus or a blood cell? What does that even mean? In his opening moments, Arinzé Kene tells us the difference: blood cells are the good members of society - the viruses are not. A virus would sneak on at the back of the bus, causing a nuisance to the rest of the passengers. Viruses are those that have gentrified the city, and forced the locals to move out, replacing culture with commodity.
A blend of spoken-word, gig theatre and live art, Misty is a brilliantly conceived cross-examination of the struggles an artist takes when writing a play. Whilst performing the 'actual play' Kene also dissects his creative process, talking about the stress he was put under from close friends, his partner at the time, as well as a hotshot producer and agent.
It's all very meta and the production does well to be in this style. Even though Kene is the main focus, it would be impossible to not shine a light on the sensational Shiloh Coke on drums and Adrian McLeod on keyboard, who provide a fantastic score whilst doubling up as Kene's antagonistic best friends.
The music's great, as are the lyrics - but that's no surprise as Kene is a brilliant creator. Throughout the two-act piece he demonstrates an impressive vocal and performative range. His delivery is delicate, yet at the same time urgent. The tracks he's created feel totally unique.
After seeing Misty at both The Bush and Trafalgar Studios, I believe that there has been something lost during the show's transfer. I think it's down to audience and intimacy. This venue has made a big impact on the pieces significance. When I saw the play, it was playing to probably a 95% white audience, and whilst I'm sure they're able to appreciate great theatre, the cultural alignment and sense of identification isn't there.
At the Bush there were many tangible moments where the audience really felt; it was obvious by their expressive outbursts, cheers and comments in the bar afterwards. So whilst it's important to celebrate this play being on in the West End, at the same time we must consider who it is that are being able to access the space.
The last thing we want is for this special creation to become a piece of novelty tourism.
Photo courtesy of the Bush Theatre