|Liz Vercoe Reviews Misty at The Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush|
OK, let's cut to the chase. Go...And...See...This...Play. There, review done
Writer and performer Arinzé Kene sidles on to the stage to share a confidence. Hunched over the microphone, his shadow is starkly outlined beside him, in full graphic-novel mode. It's hard not to watch his shadow perform in tandem.
Words flow from his lips, reasoning with rhyme, taking us on a night-bus ride populated, it seems, by surging blood cells and viruses, on a route though a city racing with difference and damage and fear. He sometimes sings his story, too, accompanied by drummer and actress Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod on keyboard. A parable of good and evil is driven by a heartbeat beat as Kene drops into it little bombshells of observation about what it feels like to be black in Britain and a black writer in the world of theatre and film today.
Here's hoping local school teachers will take their teens to see this, so that there's some genuine, rather than self-conscious, laughter about a line that only middle-class white people go to the theatre. And also to entertain them with one of the most inventive shows of the year.
But nothing is really pointed, or pointed at, because the story moves on again, flowing over what you thought you just heard. With the aid of a hat we meet Arinzé's alter ego, the character he has created in the script, "based on a true story", he is writing within this play. What movie is not "based on a true story" these days? It's one of the many modern clichés spotted and pinned to the desktop. And once again the story moves on. To a bleak tale of innocence and teenage pregnancy that makes you want to cry.
Multi-talented Kene includes performance art to share the emotion of being pulled each and every way while trying to be both true to himself but also somehow succeed in a world weighted against him. He even athletically entombs himself in a giant balloon and presents us with a stretchy, talking space-hopper.
In turn he grips, moves, provokes, inspires and, the big one, seriously entertains his audience. Aided by the creative talents of his musicians, director Omar Elerian and the whole design, lighting and projection team.
It should be chaos and indigestible, like eating a spoonful of food from every jar in the cupboard, but in these precise and capable team-hands it all makes delicious sense. Even the inevitable denouement to the play within the play. Makes you think.
April 12, 2018