Writer: Jasmine Lee-Jones
Director: Milli Bhatia
Reviewer: Paul Hegarty
It would be unfair to say Jasmine Lee-Jones’ play, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is simply about black identity, or about loneliness, or being gay for it is more than the sum of its parts. This play has lots to say and it does so in an imaginative and refreshing manner. Its sense of irony and feel for the total, pervasive fabrication of social media is impressive and whilst it probes and provokes it also provides lots of fun. It gives voice to the unsure and the unjust and it allows us to see that things are not simply black or white.
There is a terrific set design by Rajha Shakir; with a raised acting platform covered by an overhead canopy – a net or mesh from which threads, or ropes trail. This strong visual metaphor captures something of the modern while reaching to the past. Conversation threads resonate overhead along with that strongest of images – the hanging tree.
Two long-standing friends meet and their friendship is exposed in all its frailties and strengths as they plunder Cleo’s (Danielle Vitalis) online presence and her hounding of a social media show-off, Kylie Jenner – whom she wishes dead. Vitalis plays it with fun and style. Wise cracking Cleo views the accidentally rich Kylie as an affront to black dignity so she tweets and berates her on line. At once lofty ‘in under fifty words it colludes with the dehumanization of the black female body..’ and yet humorously irreverent as well, ‘ in the words of the high prophet Cardi B, I’m a boss, you a worker bitch and I make bloody moves.”
Referencing the contemporary rapper is just a start as the play is littered with not just a street vernacular but a range of text abbreviations – Lee-Jones seems able to put much of the digital world on stage, with its, BS, WTF, BTW, BMTY jargon!👍Slick changes of lights and a soundscape that haunts and disturbs the clarity of communication hints at on going tweets or messages. They are boldly characterised and both performers found a physical and vocal expression for Twitter language (LoL) as well as managing to embody and give life to emojis.
The mixed raced friend, Kara, is played with style by Tia Bannon and both Bannon and Vitalis rip through their dialogue with an energy that lights up the stage; they are quick witted, moody and touching while they speak of inanities and truth in equal measures and it is powerfully engaging. The dialogue and poetry has rhyme at times and certainly a rhythm resonates with feeling. Sounds also echo (dissected/reflected, abuse/misuse, carved /continent). In Twitter-land they all echo something of the past – the ongoing plight of the black (or not so black, as in Kara’s case) of the black woman’s struggle.
It is to Lee-Jones’ credit that when Cleo and Kara give vent to their rage, passions ignite and the spirit is awakened and we are wildly entertained. As they continue to break the fourth wall the audience are reminded that we too are part of this journey and suddenly today’s Twitter feed are the crumbs from yesterday – what’s new?
Runs until 27 July 2019 | Image: Helen Murray