Mohamed-Zain Dada’s storytelling is like a swirling cloud of shisha smoke, drawing you into the world of South Asian Muslim lives. This debut play is a delightful mix of humour, vulnerability, and depth, skilfully directed by Milli Bhatia. “Blue Mist” has hidden depths that – I admit – caught me by surprise. I came in expecting a silly “bros story”, but as the play unfolded, I was treated to a mesmerising narrative filled with emotion and heart.
A Tale of Identity and Ambitions
“Blue Mist” weaves a compelling narrative around the heart of a community in a London shisha lounge. Chunkyz Shisha Lounge, a cherished haven for Jihad (Omar Bynon), Rashid (Arian Nik), and Asif (Salman Akhtar) emerges as a sanctuary where secrets are whispered, laughter fills the air, and dreams are kindled. Jihad, an aspiring journalist, dreams of a career in the media – and finds an opportunity that could be his stepping stone.
His journey takes a gripping turn after winning a documentary competition. He embarks on a mission to give voice to his community and challenge prevailing stereotypes about shisha lounges and young Muslim males. The question that looms large is whether Jihad’s pursuit will make his friends proud or if the cost of realising his ambitions will prove too steep.
A Playful Beginning with a Quintessentially British Twist
Dada’s storytelling prowess is evident right from the start. He masterfully weaves seemingly simple but complex narratives that mirror the curling tendrils of shisha smoke, enveloping both the characters and the audience. The play embraces a “comedy from the streets” vibe, playfully highlighting quintessentially British elements of Muslim life in England. From an uptight “Uncle Haram”‘s drama at the mosque to a classic first date at Dixy Chicken, and even a heartwarming plan to open a gym “just for aunties,” the early scenes provide laughter and insight into the characters’ lives.
Surprising Depth and Emotional Resonance
As the story unfolds, it takes an unexpected turn, revealing a dramatic core that catches the audience off guard. The initial light-hearted tone deepens into a hypnotic narrative. The performances are physically intense, using expressive movement and the entire stage space to create a connection with the audience. The secrets are unveiled, characters become more profound, and what truly stands out are the moments of emotional vulnerability and openness. These moments overshadow any physical conflicts and showcase the maturity of the three male leads.
The Genuine Bond
The chemistry between the three actors is remarkable. Their authentic camaraderie feels so real that it blurs the line between fiction and reality. At times, it almost seemed as if these three friends were improvising and creating the play on the spot, drawing the audience into their world.
Powerful Stage Design and Lighting
The stage design, though simple, holds several surprises. It offers hidden spaces under the seats and an unexpected “second side” that is revealed at the end. While avoiding excessive effects, the perfectly executed lighting design plays a crucial role. The synchronised blinking neon in the background reflects the show’s energy and even the character’s heartbeat. The stage itself features different levels, creating dynamic opportunities for the actors, from the seats beneath the floor to the higher level above the neon, which adds a sense of separation. There’s a smooth change in the stage set in the second part of the play – which eventually simplifies it, putting more focus on the actors and their fantastic performances.
The Enigmatic Blue Mist
The recurring presence of shisha smoke is a central element in the play. It serves both as a subtle highlight during important dialogues and as a symbolic “wall” that adds an ethereal, almost mystical quality to the most lyrical moments of the production.
The shisha smoke, like the characters, has a story to tell. And giving the stage to Muslim characters, at a time when the conflict in the Middle East becomes more and more bloody, is an urgent thing to do.
I received the ticket to see the show in exchange for an honest review
by Mohamed-Zain Dada
Royal Court Theatre
Thu 05 Oct – Sat 18 Nov