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Blue Mist

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Blue Mist, Royal Court, 2023
Photo: Ali Wright

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Lovable drama about a trio of male Muslim friends and the run-down shisha lounge they hang out in

In his debut play, set in a London shisha bar, Mohamed-Zain Dada gets right to the heart of what a safe space can be for young men – gossip, love, inanity, unsayable things all served up in one breath – and how devastating it is to violate that.
Blue mist fills the air at Chunkyz bar. Food hasn’t been served since 2018 when the head chef ‘got poached by Chicken Cottage’. Three best friends get together regularly to let it all out: aspiring journalist Jihad (Omar Bynon), gym fiend Rashid (Arian Nik) and the slightly daft, ridiculously endearing Sif (a wonderful Salman Akhtar).

So many great lines whizz by in the back-and-forth of Dada’s dialogue, but amid this sitcom setup a more dramatic plot starts to emerge: Jihad gets a gig making a documentary about shisha lounges and has to decide how much to stick to his principles and how much to turn against his community.

We get snatches of Jihad narrating his documentary, educating his audience about these lounges and their value, allowing the play to do precisely the same thing. Sudden rough-edged moments of didacticism slip in, all the more jarring set against the easy realism of the shisha scenes. There are also strange dreamlike sequences – like a dance rendition of ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’  which break up the narrative but don’t feel fully integrated into the play.

Maybe it’s missing the point to want the play to be all fun chat and good times when the reality of life as a young British Muslim isn’t that, but Dada has such a knack for dialogue that settling into those scenes where it’s just the three friends gassing really feels like being in Chunkyz, and it’s a shame each time we break away. 
It’s also where director Milli Bhatia makes the production feel most settled and assured, the play zipping along as the trio lounge and chat and scheme around the hookah, bouncing up onto the green vinyl seats in impassioned moments, or slumping down morosely when life doesn’t go their way.

It’s all part of Dada’s attempt to pitch back against hostile media narratives of Muslim men and communities, but for all the fantastical scenes and the teaching moments, Dada does it most effectively in a subtler way: by creating three loveable, loving friends, who happen to be South Asian Muslims, and letting us spend time in their company.
Written by
Tim Bano


£12-£25. Runs 1hr 30min
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