Photo Credit Helen Murray
Misty challenges the typical story format, which I found refreshing and exciting.
It follows the journey of a real Black Londoner who gets into a fight on a bus.
This works as a perfect set up for the discrimination and prejudices we all internalise. And, like a good audience member I fell into what I thought this production would be.
With my guard up and my shield metallic – I looked around at the sea of white people that caused this performance to be sold out.
Misty was going to be another Minstrel show. Starring Arinze Kene as the real Black male from inner city London. Jeered on by a White audience that love an excitable, animated… Negro.
Before I could get another defensive (and fearful) thought in - the story of this real Black Londoner stopped mid-track. Through a Misty screen upstage, Arinze is pulled out of character and challenged by his friends about writing yet another story about Black people for White people. This was my very thought, and the acknowledgement helped to let my guard down and invest fully in the story.
Now, I’m sure for some this candid approach by the female friend translated as aggressive, ghetto, unfriendly... racist even. However she was perceived (which I would urge you to explore), it was a necessary inclusion and a long awaited perspective that I have never seen in theatre, but definitely felt. Because I related so much to this character I wanted more! Having more from this female perspective, would have helped destroy the perspective mentioned above about her attitude.
Pause - Can we talk about this Angry Black woman stereotype?
The female character in Misty is not that - but the lack of character journey and an audience that is mainly white that rarely see true Black representation - there is a danger that she becomes this!
The Angry Black Woman stereotype is neither modern or true. It comes from The Sapphire Caricature created by a supremcist system, but a perspective that I believe is still active today.
Check out this very informative take on The Sapphire Caricature
Comment (or email me) your experiences of when you have been treated like the Angry Black Woman!
Shoutout to our very own Shiloh Coke who is one of the Musical Directors for Misty and played the female friend.
The journey of this real Black Londoner continues, and the theme of virus to the community is added. The balloons represent this virus and we experience a series of breakaway moments whereby Arinze interacts with the balloons.
The balloons added a sensory element that stimulated my need to be simultaneously involved. The character, the words, the environment all matter. The balloons were orange and flooded the stage at one point, offering vibrancy and a live set change.
The balloons actively penetrate the fourth wall by their sound, colour and the reaction of the audience to the balloons being over blown and flying over to our side. One landed in my lap adding intensity and engagement.
I think it is important to note the symbolism in the walls and barriers that have hindered diverse stories... until now.
The second half of Misty unapologetically transports you into a grime concert.
This real Black Londoner raps his way through his oppression and over his outsider status. The antagonist that fights on buses and disturbs the peace, magically transforms into the protagonist, the hero – fighting the orange balloon viruses!
With Shiloh (the female friend) to my right beating the drums; and the real Black Londoner in front - the sea of white that had my guard up earlier didn’t matter. I belonged here!
The direction was excellent! I loved the structure of following the story of the real Black Londoner and the break away scenes, which included other characters, the audience and even the technical team came on stage for a couple of scenes.
Another pause please. Grime is such an important part of Black British history. As someone who grew up in the late eighties, early ninties - I had to look to America or Jamaica musically. Grime and Garage is an evolution of being inspired by rap and reggae but creating something that is ours!
Have you heard this?
Watch Lady Leshur's Black Panther video, embodying a Beautifully Bold Black British Woman that is changing the narrative of The Sapphire Caricature. Also read my review on Black Panther afterwards.
Misty tells my story of London.
Rapping the language I know and airing concerns I have about gentrification, exploitation and privilege...
The real Black Londoner explored
I call Arinze's character, our hero in Misty - the real Black Londoner because I don't think we often see this. It relates to an earlier point I made about the Female Friend in Misty, and definitely relates to my Film Review of a Black Panther. Its not just about representation but getting it right. If you're not in the experience you're observing it. And your observation has with it certain stereotypes and biases. Unless you have done the work to unlearn a system that has survived on hierarchy, meaning that it needs to create an illusion that some people are lower, you perpetuate - regardless of your race, gender or economical background. I'm a big fan of Arinze's theatre work and have spoken to him a few time but can't work him out. This is a good thing! Humans are multidimensional and the obsession with boxing is rooted in supremacy. I think Arinze and the team do a fantastic job of making the real Black Londoner a real Black Londoner!
But where were the Black British community that the real Black Londoner represented?
Did they know that Misty was a play about their experiences?
Although I have made sense of the title being about the other characters speaking behind Misty screens; and the change in perspective by the real Black Londoner causes a Misty view - I think unlike Nine Night the title lets this production down. It is not marketed towards the audience it is about.
A real shame!
On a brighter note - let me leave you with a demo of the real Black Londoner
Click the link below for tickets because luckily Misty has transferred to the Trafalgar Studios.
Get tickets at the Trafalgar Studio's :)
Have you seen Misty or plan to?
What were your thoughts about the production?
Are Theatre spaces just not for you?