I haven’t seen all the plays this year but seven methods of killing kylie jenner is the play of the year. Jasmine Lee-Jones, the twenty year old playwright responsible for the masterpiece on at the Royal Court until Saturday 27th July, made me question if my words would even be worthy to describe what I experienced last night; that’s how talented she is. It’s no secret that I’ve been a little down lately- I’ve not been feeling myself, a walking wound that won’t scab over but sitting in that theatre, surrounded by black women all gathered to watch black women perform in a play written by a black woman I felt closer to healing than I have in a long time.
Set under a canopy of fibre optic cables, seven methods of killing kylie jenner tells the story of best friends Cleo and Kara during the kind of Twitter scandal I often dissect. While very much a drama, the play is side splittingly hilarious. With precision, it articulates the sensation of going viral and the impact it has on this familiar friendship between a dark skin black woman, Cleo, and her light skin best friend Kara. With a microscope, the play analyses the ways many young black women communicate without pandering to the white gaze. seven methods of killing kylie jenner is uncomfortable and unflinching in its portrayal of the very real, everyday effects of white supremacy and gender violence on black women.
I am going to be unfettered in my admiration for the entire creative team cos this is my blog and I answer to no one. I want you to be fully equipped with all the reasons you need to get your ticket to this show before they sell out.
I told you already, Jasmine is TWENTY years old. seven methods of killing kylie jenner is her debut play and she is going straight to the top. The next time theatre award season rolls around, if she is not nominated for everything she qualifies for I will scream misogynoir from the roof tops. The fearlessness with which she writes about race and colourism and gender and sexuality without centring men or white people is awe inspiring. This may sound like irony considering the title of the play includes the name of a prominent white woman but I promise that this play is not about Kylie Jenner. seven methods of killing kylie jenner is about black women. Kylie Jenner is simply an avatar for white supremacy and white feminism that is often weaponised against us (black women).
The audacity with which Lee-Jones centres black british womanhood and the conflicts therein stirred something deep in my soul. I felt like I was being constantly reminded that the level of excellence- and make no mistake, distilled excellence is on display on that stage- that level of excellence is available to me too. Every carefully curated section of the play whispered to me that I should unburden myself of feelings of inadequacy. It is spiritual.
I don’t care that this sounds like hyperbole; the truth is, Lee-Jones decolonised a traditionally white space in one fell swoop. Her amalgamation of Black Twitter memes with academic discourse immediately centres blackness, specifically black womanhood, forsaking all others. It is a courageous act of love that has one side effect of displacing white hegemony, scattering the safety whiteness experiences in the theatre space and making room for black women and femmes where we are on the inside. We are the creators. We are the taste makers. We are the leaders. “Follow, if you can keep up” her writing dares. Lee-Jones does this without compromising her voice in hopes that others might understand. This rocked me. I forgot this was an option.
Cleo, played by Danielle Vitalis, breaks out into a monologue in the final act of the play and I lose it. During her crescendo part of my pain that had been caught in my throat for so long dislodged and I wailed. The music was so loud, I thought no one could hear me but my sister beside me put her arms around me. Vitalis’ casting is inspired. Her command over the text is mindboggling. She is all at once an MC second to none and a professor leading students of black feminist thought to the promised land. Saartjie Sarah Baartman, Serena Williams and Caster Semenya wait at the pearly gates with open arms to welcome all who’ve tarried too long as targets of society’s ills and they do so through Danielle Vitalis’ performance.
Tia Bannon is very much Vitalis’ equal on stage. Without Bannon, Vitalis’ delivery would lack its verve, its confidence; this is a case of iron strengthening iron. Bannon’s character Kara does what I wish many light skinned and/or mixed race black women caught up in colourism debates would; LISTEN and SUPPORT her dark skin friend. Bannon offers up the kind of empathy that could change so many lives. She is not a projection of idealism; I know Karas. I’ve been loved, supported and uplifted by my own Karas throughout my life but I know so many more dark skin black women who could do with a Kara. Jasmine Lee-Jones does not paint Kara or Cleo as a villain; in that role belongs to white supremacy. But she isn’t afraid to shine a light on the nuance of blackness. Bannon’s ability to inhabit the fear experienced when your privilege is held up in a mirror in front of you is stunning. We all have a privilege but Bannon’s performance asks what you do to share that privilege with those more disenfranchised than yourself.
Without Milli Bhatia’s unflinching direction and her collaboration with Rajha Shakiry’s set design, Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design, Elena Peña’s sound design and Delphine Gaborit’s movement direction seven methods of killing kylie jenner would not be the masterpiece it is. This exclusively female and non-binary creative team are leaders in a revolution that has been long overdue. The industry needs refreshing and this team are the ones to lead the charge against the status quo. I am thankful to each and every person on this team. What a shining example of brilliance they are to us all.
If you buy one thing before the end of July, make it be a ticket to this show. You deserve it. The play is transformative and should be taught in schools. I cannot imagine how valuable this would be in the hands of teenagers who would benefit from feeling included and respected by one of the seminal voices in the arts today.