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Misty creator Arinze Kene responds to ‘black play’ label

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Arinze Kene is the second black playwright to have a play on the West End

PLAYWRIGHT AND actor Arinze Kene has shared his response to people who categorise his work as a “black play”.

Kene, whose play Misty follows a man’s experience of the gentrification of his neighbourhood has been lauded by critics and theatregoers.

The production has transferred from the Bush Theatre, where it had a sold-out run, to London’s Trafalgar Studios.

Kene is only the second black playwright to have a play staged on the West End.

In a recent interview, Channel 4 news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked Kene: “Is this [Misty] a black play?”

Kene replied: “I don’t know what a black play is.

“See, that’s the thing...Would you call Hamlet a white play? I don’t know if you would, maybe someone would, but I don’t know what makes a black play a black play. This is a play, for me, is a play for London.”

Guru-Murthy continued with his line of question by asking Kene if a play would fit into that category if it was was about a black person, by a black person and put on by a black person.

Kene said: “My counter would be if it is written by a white person and if it is directed and put on by white people is it a white production? I don’t know, I don’t know if it is. I wouldn’t call it one.”

Kene’s response was supported on social media.

One user said: “I love his response!! The question from the interviewer was ignorant. Today in Britain people are constantly looking for what divides us. The arts is one industry that we can rely on to focus on what binds us... an appreciation of talent regardless of race.”

Another commenter, said: “Brilliant response. One further step to defeating the embedded racism in our society. White-led entertainment is never seen as 'white' productions, so why are minority endeavours labelled by colour? Unless to assume no white person would be interested in them? Shameful.”

Others defendended Guru-Murthy’s line of questioning and said there was nothing negative about a production being labelled as a black play.

“I disagree. Black is only an insulting term if you have it as one. August Wilson wrote great plays, [and] they were great black plays. No one is insulted when they say ‘American play’ [because] we don’t have a negative connotation to Western nationality. PS Shakespeare white as snow,” one Twitter user said.

Another added: “The term 'black play' is not necessarily reductive. It is placing the work within a certain noble tradition. Literature is best understood within a tradition. Why we love A Raisin in the Sun, Gem of the Ocean. Blackness is a defining characteristic in both.”

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