After a sold-out premiere in 2019, seven methods of killing kylie jenner returns for a limited run at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at The Royal Court. Written by Jasmine Lee-Jones and directed by Milli Bhatia, this is a stunning exploration of historical oppression and cultural appropriation through the lens of free speech, social media and identities, both lived and virtual.
The title of the show alludes to a series of viral tweets posted by the handle @incognegro, run by a young Black British woman Cleo, that has caught the attention of the Twitterverse and its millions of faceless users. Confronted by online trolls and haters who are increasingly calling for her to be censored, Cleo’s only refuge is her best friend Kara whose advice only exacerbates the situation further and opens up a can of worms that threatens their very friendship. Using the construct of a Whatsapp chat between its two titular characters which is played out in real-time, the text by Lee-Jones effortlessly combines textspeak, GIFs, emojis and cultural references to offer a refreshingly original and accessible dialogue about diversity, inclusion and intersectionality. As the initial set of tweets turn into a controversial thread that spirals into an internet-wide witch hunt rife with racial slurs and death threats, Cleo and Kara are forced to acknowledge their own positionality in this multi-faceted conversation about diversity and take steps to protect themselves and their friendship from ruin.
Leanne Henlon as Cleo offers a hauntingly powerful performance, digging deep into their character’s anxieties and insecurities as a young Black British woman who has to continue justifying her presence in the rooms she finds herself in. Delicately balancing this IRL persona and a more confident, self-assured online avatar, Henlon’s anguish-driven presence tugs at your heart completely. Tia Bannon, who plays Kara, charms you with their character’s deeply endearing nature, exasperated and enthused in equal measure by the actions of her friend. Bannon successfully elevates the dramatic tension of the piece from being too one-sided, giving us reasons to look beyond Cleo’s reading of the situation. Bhatia’s direction brings together the duo’s rapid banter and frenetic voices in a fiery, entertaining manner on stage. However, the biggest stand out is the visual dramatization of the Twitterverse, that has the performers act out the spiral of tweets, gifs and emojis belted out at the shocking and unforgiving pace of the internet. This is complemented by a stellar design by Rajha Shakiry, and a stunning light design by Jessica Hung Han Yun and Amy Mae, that replicates the somatic feeling of feeling dazed whilst sitting in front of a computer screen as it lights up with notifications and alerts, leaving you unable to look away.
To summarize, seven methods of killing kylie jenner is a compelling commentary on the racism and discrimination that continues to plague marginalized individuals in real-life and online rooms, and how the emotional labour of taking a stand in the virtual ‘void’ can lead to very IRL consequences.
seven methods of killing kylie jenner is running at The Royal Court Theatre SW1W 8AS till Tuesday, 25th July. Learn more and book tickets at https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/sevenmethods/
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 22nd June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★