‘Misty’ review

Theatre, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(28user reviews)
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1/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
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2/10
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3/10
Helen MurrayMISTY ; Written by and starring Arinze Kene ; Directed by Omar Elerian ; MD and Musician Adrian McLeod ; MD and Musician Shiloh Coke; Set Design by Rajha Shakiry ; Lighting Design by Jackie Shemesh ; Video Design by Daniel Denton ; Bush Theatre, London, UK ; 16 March 2018 ; Credit and Copyright Helen Murray ;
 (© Helen Murray)
4/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené, Adrian McLeod and Shiloh Coke
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5/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
 (© Helen Murray)
6/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
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7/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
 (© Helen Murray)
8/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
 (© Helen Murray)
9/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené
 (© Helen Murray)
10/10
© Helen Murray Arinze Kené

Inventive, subversive, slightly surreal show about the stories black men are allowed to tell, from Arinzé Kene

‘Misty’ transfers to Trafalgar Studios in September 2018. This review is of its original run at thge Bush Theatre in March 2018

A story of a fight on a night bus, delivered by actor-playwright Arinzé Kene with a physical swagger and grime-like flow. Flanking him, Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod play drums and keys. It’s gig-theatre, performance poetry, suggesting London is a body and its inhabitants blood cells. Only some of them – black people, it’s implied – are viruses.

Kene suddenly punctures his set-up. Coke and McLeod become unimpressed mates, ringing up ‘Arinzé’ to offer feedback on his play. Another ‘generic angry young black man’ story. ‘Ain’t nothing but a modern minstrel show.’ He’s selling out by writing the black narrative white people want to hear. It’s a razor-sharp interruption: funny but astute. Because his monologue surely is exactly the ‘urban safari jungle shit’ theatre producers get turned on by.

Kene blows up an orange balloon. It deflates, like his ego. From then on, balloons are used as a striking visual metaphor throughout Omar Elerian’s beautifully directed and Rajha Shakiry’s beautifully designed production. Kene wrestles with balloon; later, he gets trapped in one. It’s a pure visual way to show his struggle with telling a story, when you know that story will always be labelled ‘black’, will always be a battleground of representation.

He keeps telling it, though. Turns out the monologue was inspired by the ‘true’ story of his mate Lucas. And Kene flips the argument: why shouldn’t he tell this? How is it a step forward to stop black voices articulating their lived experience? Lucas said he’d come to the theatre – if he could see stories like his on the stage.

It’s bracing to see the question of who gets to tell stories – and how they might be circumscribed – tackled head-on here, with wit, exuberance and visual flair. Kene is a magnetic performer, and served well by his actor-musicians, who prove as good at cutting comic timing as they are at delivering crisp beats.

But ‘Misty’ is far from perfect. Kene could take his foot off the pedal and trust his writing, and his audience, more. In the second half, ‘Arinzé’ realises he isn’t the virus; the ‘flat-white-sipping yoga addicts’ swarming through the city are. But Kene’s explication of gentrification is heavy-handed, and the coffee-shop satire feels old-hat. Attacking arty hipsters lends a frisson when they make up half the audience, but isn’t it a cheap shot in a show explicitly arguing against sweeping stereotyping?

The last 20 minutes feel like the performance is struggling to reach a clever enough ending, and it rather chokes on attempts to eat its own tail. That said, the final rapped rebuttal to the accusation he’s writing ‘jungle shit’ lands a punch of superbly fierce defiance – and duly ignites the room, burning through any niggling reservations.

By: Holly Williams

Posted:

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:11
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|28
1 person listening
tastemaker

Arinzé Kene is a very powerful performer, and has a lot to tell us in this production. The production is clever, but lacking an cohesion. It has moments of real power,but needs more work (and maybe some trimming).

Yes the audience seemed to love it, unfortunately it didn't really work for me. 
tastemaker

This is a very interesting piece of theatre, with live music, projections, microphones and a whole lot of balloons being used to full effect. Kene's energy was infectious and the words roll off his tongue, from rhyming to rap. Overall I found the piece a bit messy and I have a problem with writing that is about writing (just write something and perform it!). He did address a lot of problems with the theatre today but I don't feel he expressed it in the right way. I didn't necessarily agree with his metaphor of black people as viruses. The future is looking bright though for performance art of this kind and there is definitely an audience for it.

tastemaker

Probably one of the most unique performance I have seen so far! Arinzé kane was incredible and the show was entertaining. Not your usual theatre play so definitely worth catching it.

tastemaker

Misty is just incredible! I didn’t really know what to expect from this play and brought my boyfriend along who is in general not really the play type... We both absolutely loved Arinze Kane performance: mixing rap and theater, with a touching storyline and making you question a lot of things. It’s a play that will make you laugh, cry and think. It is hard to describe it in just a few words but definitely go see it!

Tastemaker

I loved this play! I thought it was incredibly clever, as well as being well directed and well acted. And I loved the music and the set. I found myself thinking about it again for days afterwards, and told lots of people to go and see it! So much energy, emotion and strength conveyed throughout - very impressive.

tastemaker

Misty is a huge eye opener for all Londoners out there.

A play filled with strength, anger, power, and fire.

I think it’s absolutely incredible seeing a play like Misty in the west end showing how everyone in this life should be respected no matter what their story.

You can see that Arinzé Kene is trying so hard to impress and deliver a mighty performance with his strong, poetic rapping.

His story telling through his emotions, his body language and his words is quite powerful in a way, but lacks a certain sense of quality.

Misty didn’t quite do it for me, but I can see why the audience would like this show.

It seems to be a little all over the place and I sometimes felt it was a little too much.

Some parts could of been toned down and it still would of been good.

I can see the frustration and the power that Kene wanted to transmit in the scene with the orange balloons. It did feel a little silly after a while.

His words are very strong and very forward, but at times I do think the audience were cheering on because of his muscular appearance. I know it sounds awful, but I have to be truly honest in my review.

I can only write honest reviews and that’s how I feel.

Misty can definitely go ahead and become a good show, but it’s not for me.

A lot people will love it and will appreciate the mighty words of Arinzé Kene.

The other cast members were a fantastic addition to the play.

See it now at the Bush Theatre.

Love MD.

#TOTastemaker


I had no idea what to expect and absolutely loved every minute. I was totally captivated and thoroughly recommend it.


so much energy, so many shifts of time and place- such terrific play. Clever, mad, funny, moving. Music, set, sound, text- all excellent. Subverts ' the black canon in fee-art-ah' and holds a different light to blackness in London life and on stage.   Highly recommended. Hugely entertaining. Endlessly surprising

tastemaker

I can't even begin to describe how refreshing, powerful, thought provoking and impressive this show was. Arinzé Kene has such a talent for creating raps with clever rounds and beat sequences. I found myself laughing, gasping and jumping throughout the entire performance. It was interesting to see a mostly white audience squirm as they questioned their inherent assumptions and judgments. I could not recommend this enough if you need a break from the generic theatre scene but don't want to see something that's just art for the sake of being art. 

tastemaker

The show received a standing ovation (and staff reported that this was the norm) which was definitely well deserved, Misty is an 'almost' one man play/social commentary/concert/performance art/poetry show. It is instantly modern, relevant and engrossing, leaving the audience with plenty to speak about after it ends. 

tastemaker

Part rap gig, part poetry performance, part one man show and all social commentary, Misty stars Arinzé Kene as he wrestles with the pressure of being a black Londoner writing and performing in a show about hoodies and gangs which his friends criticise as being made purely to appeal to a white audience.

Cue vignettes of him taking well meaning but hilariously tactless shots from his friends on stage before they resume their positions either side at the drums and keyboard to provide the backing track to his next free flowing diss track in response. It’s exhilarating and exceptionally impressive stuff; his clever use of rhymes, flawless delivery and head bobbing melodies making this feel like the best rap concept album you’ve never heard performed live.

Alas, it’s the rest of the story that weighs it all down. As Kene’s pressures to deliver the play he wants while keeping everyone else happy sees his thoughts spiral out of control, so does the narrative which flits from inside his head, to into a play, to breaking the fourth wall and probably a few other perspectives in-between. To be honest I lost the thread and found myself simply counting down to the next song.

Kene is immensely talented and this is a show that deserves to be seen for the musical performances alone. It’s just the play bit that lets it down a bit though.

tastemaker

If I’m honest I’m still not entirely sure what happened at the end but I know that from the beginning I was engrossed, captivated and moved.The pace is fast, the music is great and there is a fantastic humour woven throughout the duration of the performance.Thought-provoking and conversation-starting, it was unlike any performance I have seen before as I’ve never really ventured into the world of ‘performance art’ but it has definitely opened my mind and broadened my horizons!

tastemaker

From Bush Theatre to Trafalgar Studios. Arinzé has definitely proven why his thought provoking play deserved the stage time, credit and attraction it has received. We are given insight to views surrounding the community he has grown up in and how social change has a dramatic effect on individuals. Definitely creative, bringing to light current issues which effect inner city urban Londoners.

tastemaker

Just what you expect from a successful one-man show, Arinze captivates the audience and effortless performs a two hour show that is entertaining and serves a purpose. First half was really interesting but the second half felt a little like it was struggling towards the end. Regardless i would gladly recommend it to anyone

Tastemaker

This is a wild, diverse, pulsating show with a real mix of influence and delivery. It will keep on surprising you, keep you guessing and wanting more. Comprising of a mixture of poetry, songs and spoken work theatrically delivered with confidence and from the heart, and thoroughly inventive ideas played out in energetic fashion. You will be drawn in, you will be impressed and you will be entertained!

tastemaker

'Misty' is a vibrant, funny, self-aware show that manages to be clever without being pretentious. Arinzé Kene owns every inch of the stage (apart from the drums, which definitely belong to the fierce Shiloh Coke) as he takes you through drama, and laughter, and pathos, whilst demonstrating just how spectacularly talented he is as a performer.

Narrative-wise, looking at race, masculinity, and gentrification, 'Misty' is, without question, a play for our times, and this was a fact reflected in a wonderfully diverse audience.


'Misty' proved a great night out, so I 100% recommended it, if you can get there: it was well worth its standing ovation!

tastemaker

While starting out appearing to be a "yet another angry black man" play the plot quickly changes to the struggle of being a black artist wanting to tell the story of their choice without the judgement of their black peers (thinking he has written another "Urban Jungle Play") or white producers that force him to focus on the stigma and cliched views of being a black man in a white dominated society.


Misty is more than this though. It touches on gentrification, Grenfell, finding acceptance within yourself and others. Kene does this with humour, anger, and... orange balloons! Kene, Coke, and McLeod do a fantastic job with the lyrics and music, and the stage setup is quite clever with its use of light and shadow. Be prepared to entertained but left thinking about how society is changing around us 

tastemaker

For a limited period Trafalgar Studios is now showing Misty.

It's a one actor play. On both sides of the small stage with minimalistic decorations there is a drummer and an electric piano player. They play live and occasionally stepping away from their instruments and playing characters themselves. Apart from that, it's one unhappy angry man talking and rapping. It meant to be some sort of urban modernism but it looked like an urban angst. He talks about hoodies, viruses, edgy bus passengers and a fight that breaks out. He reminds us of Grenfell and the Black Lives Matter fight.

Sorry, I didn't get it. It intended to be a story telling us what it means to be a young man in London. However for me it sounded somehow one dimensional. And it is not because there is only one actor, I've seen plenty remarkable plays where one person manages to captivate your attention from the beginning to the end.

tastemaker

I wasn't sure what to expect from this play as there was little information on what it was about and I was fearful it would be far too full on.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed this play and thought it was clever, innovative and exciting.  It dealt with serious themes, but not in a negative way and it was light and refreshing.  The lead was charismatic, engaging and he completely drew us in.  Probably not for anyone who has a fear of balloons popping!

Tastemaker

The performance was an emotionally evoking play which allowed me to see my home (London) in a way I haven't before whilst also allowing me to relate to the London I know so well and hold dear to my heart. Despite it being a one man show he was able to fill the space so well with his characterising.

I loved the use of music, the singing, the spoken word etc, the story was very relatable to everyone too. He was great, everyone had their moments of laughter and I enjoyed the vibe.  

tastemaker

Misty- 4* Misty was a force that seemed to subvert it’s wispy title, yet be so incredibly apt. Arinze Kene takes no prisoners in his writing and performance as he demands the audiences hearts and minds as he questions, confesses and explores not only what blackness and gentrification mean in a contemporary London but also what it means to write about it - and it’s ultimate implications. Kene problematises with a certain uncertainty engaging Dada and the absurd with undeniable realism - The Bush is also (stylistically) all over this powerful work rooting criticism an unsettling and decadent, yet simmering truth. Without giving too much away, Kene deftly threads pertinent stories of negotiating blackness in the contemporary arena through movement, rap, multi rolling and an Artaud- esque cruelty; all underscored by two incredible actor/musicians who underscore the piece to perfection not only with musical aplomb but acting chops to boot. The only criticism at times were the movement pieces that erred on the indulgent and could be shortened. A must see.

tastemaker

What a refreshing joy. This play by Arinzé Kene is very different right from the get go. I loved how it's only 5 people with multiple parts. Its so clever how it fits altogether and at the end youll understand what the orange balloon is all about. If you like rap, conceptual art, poetry and a hate for gentrification in London, this is the play for you. I really loved looking at the audience to see how diverse they were. One word that sums its all up; wheelie. 

tastemaker

Experimental, rhythmic, energetic and unashamedly London, I enjoyed this show from start to end. Multi-talented writer and performer Arinzé Kene puts in a fantastic performance touching on themes such as race, class, black masculinity and belonging in this living, breathing, unforgiving city. Go see it!


Misty, by Arinzé Kene is a must see play. His 'performances' - rap, poetry, live-art, comedy, music - and musicians are truly amazing! The play was transferred this year from the Bush Theatre to the West End. It's a 'Tour-de-Force' show that reaches to some 'uncomfortable' topics/issues about the city we live in. Fantastic production! Not to be missed! Clock is ticking. 

tastemaker

I was apprehensive that I would not enjoy an entire show performed by just one actor, but wow was I proven wrong. Arinze raps, sings, recites and acts multiple parts in an unbelievable display of talent which had you laughing, shocked and even scared at times. Switching between the fiction and non-fiction world still maintained deep underlying themes throughout; told using original imagery and the analogy of the city as a living human body with interacting organs, blood cells and viruses. Misty really provokes thought on race, urban relations and the effects of gentrification we are experiencing in our very own city. Definitely an acquired taste and one where you need full concentration, but for me ticked all the boxes!

tastemaker

Misty is positioned as gig-theatre. It is a sensory experience from the moment you walk in the theatre with a live two-piece band busting out grime-like tunes. Arinzé Kene is a talented and charismatic storyteller and the first half of the show is captivating and compelling. I totally agree with the concept of "everyone should be allowed to tell their story, in a way they deem fit", however I found the overall narrative quite divisive and self deprecating. Referring to any group of society a virus does not sit well with me at all. In saying all that, at the end of the performance, Kene received a standing ovation while my wife and I stayed glued to our chairs.

tastemaker

What a fantastic production, misty is creative, inspired and will leave you questioning reality vs pure fiction. Take the journey into the mind of Arinze Kene as he recounts the story of his friend and a night-bus. Plagued by writers block,torn between the pandering of his white audiences and the backlash he faces from his community. Explore gentrification, view the world through Arinze kaleidoscope and enjoy an evening of performance art, spoken word, rap and comedy. Playful yet serious, a must see!