‘Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner’ review
Time Out says
Jasmine Lee-Jones’s scintillating debut play reopens the Royal Court’s main house
‘Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner’ transfers to the Royal Court’s Downstairs Theatre to open its 2021 season. This review is from its debut Upstairs in July 2019. Leanne Henlon replaces Danielle Vitalis.
Cleo wants to kill Kylie Jenner. Her friend Kara just wants Cleo to chill out and stop tweeting elaborate death threats about Insta-celebrities: the title’s ‘Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner’. But for Cleo, the success of 21-year-old ‘self-made millionaire’ Jenner taps into something much deeper. Jasmine Lee-Jones’s powerfully original debut play follows these two female friends having the most blistering, agonising, meme-scattered row of their lives. Nothing’s off-limits, from primary school humiliations to the vast structural privilege that light-skinned women have.
Jenner isn’t self-made, Cleo argues: she’s the millionaire offspring of billionaire parents, who sells ‘lip kits’ that encourage white women to paint on the full lips that black women have long been stigmatised for possessing. Cleo is in the middle of writing her dissertation on structural anti-blackness, which gives Lee-Jones good reason to give her theory-heavy speeches in the long history of discrimination against black women. Her friend Kara is a bit bewildered by all this, especially when Cleo points out the advantages her light skin brings her. And Kara’s queer identity comes with its own set of ingeniously explored tensions. Danielle Vitalis’s performance as Cleo mixes formidable verbal dexterity and poetic flourishes, while Tia Bannon’s wide-eyed Kara has an initial naivety that gradually breaks into frustrations of her own.
Sometimes the bold monolithic structure of this play gets frustrating: it’s one argument, divided by seven Twitter posts and bursts of online outrage. But Lee-Jones’s writing is genuinely hilarious, especially for audiences that are both ‘extremely online’ and well-versed in black Twitter. These women communicate in acted-out memes and song snippets and actually say the shorthands that most people just type, because being online isn’t a vacuum-sealed subset of life, it’s a place where new languages brew and old ideas clash.
After Cleo tweets each of her seven ‘methods’, these two women become distilled essence of internet. Director Milli Bhatia’s production comes into its own in these ‘Twitterludes’, where Bannon and Vitalis create firestorms of commenter opinions, their huge cartoonishly accented voices cutting through distorted flashes of sound and light.
It’s way too much, like when you accidentally play a video on your phone at full volume on a packed commuter train. And that’s what makes it exciting, Cleo’s jarring combination of all-in irreverence and deadly purpose. It’s a duality reflected in this play’s artfully drawn central friendship; these two women are ultimately, beautifully held together by the tensions that threaten to destroy them.