Review: Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner (Royal Court)

A wild, loud, and formally ambitious new play by Jasmine Lee-Jones

Tia Bannon in Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner
Tia Bannon in Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner
© Helen Murray 2019

This new play from writer new Jasmine Lee-Jones is wild, loud, and formally ambitious. Some of the time it was hard to understand what was being said or what was going on, but I rather loved it.

What this work – with its brilliant title – made me realise is how rare it is to see theatre about the things that people are actually experiencing in terms of social media. Here the dialogue and the emotions are triggered by the way in which Kylie Jenner, is described by Forbes in a tweet on the social media platform as "the youngest self-made billionaire ever".

This sends Cleo, a 21 year-old black woman who tweets under the tag @Incongnegro, into a fury and a frenzy of tweets: "YT woman born into rich American family somehow against all odds manages to get rich" and to threaten – on the Twittersphere – the seven different ways of killing her. "Method #5 Death by Immolation." Her tweets and her explanations of them to her best friend Kara, who is both queer (that's how she identifies) and of mixed race form the structure.

The play which was commissioned as part of the Andrea Project, a day of events that commemorates the playwright Andrea Dunbar, is full of her fighting spirit and her sense of listening to life as it is lived. It is powered by fury, by a sense of the voices of young black women not being heard. As it spins and spits its way to its challenge of a conclusion, all kinds of grounds get covered, and the friendship between the two women, the way they have damaged and supported each other in the past, is picked apart.

The voices of other black women, betrayed by history, also emerge, in particular the story of Saartjie Baartman, a South African who was exhibited in Europe as a curiosity before she died at the age of 26. Each section is introduced by a poetic passage explaining the method of Kylie's proposed death and why; the Twitter sections have the two actors seem to convulse and take on many voices. The split between what they say on Twitter (where Cleo proposes violent action that she knows she will never carry out) and the complexity and kindness of their own lives is graphically described.

It's a bit messy, and there's a lot to take in, but the show is inspiringly fresh and it is given a firecracker production by Milli Bhatia with a great design of tangled wires by Rajha Shakiry, and impassioned, funny, clever performances by Danielle Vitalis as Cleo and Tia Bannon as Kara. Lee-Jones is definitely one to watch.