Word of Colour

seven methods of killing kylie jenner

Play: seven methods of killing kylie jenner

Playwright: Jasmine Lee-Jones

Director: Milli Bhatia

Theatre: The Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

Review by Cherise Lopes-Baker

seven methods of killing kylie jenner, the debut by 20 year old playwright Jasmine-Lee Jones, is a masterful dissection of appropriation, colourism, sexuality and privilege through the medium of Black Twitter memes and academic discourse.

Cleo, played by Danielle Vitalis, erupts in a poetic, violent and substantiated Twitter storm in reaction to Forbes’ infuriating tweet announcing Kylie Jenner as ‘the youngest self-made billionaire ever’.

Espousing the different methods of killing Kylie Jenner, and the white supremacy/colonial exploitation KJ embodies, Cleo’s thread soon goes viral in the giddy-to-be-provoked Twittersphere. Cleo’s best friend Kara (Tia Bannon) attempts to de-escalate the increasingly heated viral conversation, but in doing so transmutes the conversation to IRL (in real life).

Burdened and vulnerable, passionate and bright, Cleo is many incredible things, but most painfully, she is aware. Aware of the racism and the misogynoir around her. Aware of the colourism, even within supposedly safe spaces. Constantly aware of the judgements, strictures and stereotypes created to restrict dark-skinned black women.

Understandably, she is tired, angry and done with it. From childhood bullying to current romantic entanglements, with Kylie’s infamous brand capitalising off what black women are denigrated for, Cleo excavates her full trauma and juxtaposes it with Kara’s light-skinned mixed-race privilege, engaging in a discussion of blackness, identity, and acceptability.

Confronted with Kara’s queer identity, Cleo must also come to terms with her relative privilege and harmful behaviour. Together, the two dig layers and expand boundaries, arriving at painful and hard-won understandings of privilege and oppression.

Exploding in poignant and painful memories, but interspersed increasingly with acronyms, Twitterspeak, and memes, Kara and Cleo clash again and again, building to a frenzy of Twitter ‘glitches’.

Dramatic and gothic, the dark subject matter is enlightened and performed to witty and sardonic heights with the juxtaposition of Black Twitter memes. Hilarious and side-splitting to an art, Jasmine-Lee Jones expertly uses the medium itself to critique the appropriation of black culture and how it is exploited and weaponised against the very people who created it.

This play is an act of decolonisation in its very essence. By and for black femmes, it unapologetically places them at the centre. The rest of us are lucky enough to sit down and take in the sheer brilliance.

From Danielle Vitalis and Tia Bannon’s riveting performances, to Milli Bhatia’s uncompromising direction, to Rajha Shakiry’s eerily haunting and conjuring stage design, and most importantly Jones’ revolutionary text, this entire production is truly groundbreaking and vital.

seven methods killing kylie jenner is at Royal Court Theatre until 27th July 2019

Photo credit: Helen Murray