The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore
other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to
normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
methods of killing kylie jenner
Royal Court Theatre Online Spring 2022
passionate yelp of anger and pain, and a fresh and disturbing analysis
of cultural racism, Jasmine Lee-Jones's play was staged by the Royal
Court Theatre in 2019 and 2021 and is now made available online.
bit of background may be necessary for some. Kylie Jenner is a young
American businesswoman, a member of the Kardashian family who were the
subjects of a how-the-rich-and-glamorous-live American reality TV
their privileged lives on display for several seasons turned them all
into exemplars of the cynical definition of celebrity – famous just for
being famous. As a teenager Jenner put her name on a fashion and
cosmetics line and by 21 was being hailed as 'America's youngest
is that 'self-made' that enrages Cleo (Leanna Henlon), the young black
woman at the centre of Lee-Jones's play, since it ignores the enormous
advantage any rich, beautiful, white American woman accepts as her
Jenner gets credit for something almost handed to her, then everyone who
doesn't succeed must be a personal failure. If 'beauty' is defined as
'looking like Kylie Jenner,' then every black woman is being defined as
ugly, and every young black woman who buys into the Jenner image is
internalising that judgement of herself.
is to take to the Twittersphere with a string of tweets under the handle
of Anonegro, revelling in the fantasy of destroying all that Jenner
From that point Lee-Jones's play follows three alternating strands: Anonegro's tweets, the Twitterverse's responses to it, and personal scenes between Cleo and her friend Kora (Tia Bannon).
may have to go back to Osborne's Look Back In Anger to find a play so
thoroughly built around one character's pain and rage, and Seven Methods
has some of that earlier play's power as well as some of its
addressing Cleo's invective more at the culture that accepts all the
values implicit in Jenner's celebrity than at the figurehead herself,
Lee-Jones exposes how thoroughly ingrained and internalised racism and
classism are, and by making it personal she keeps it visceral.
is what ties the three strands of the play together. As Anonegro's
readers begin to sense that she is attacking them as much as the
celebrity, they begin to feel threatened and turn against her.
as Cleo and Kora repeatedly get distracted by personal matters – the way
you treated me at that party when we were teenagers – we sense that
those are not distractions, but evidence of the cultural prejudices the
play is about invading every corner of their lives.
only does Lee-Jones identify hitherto-unappreciated horrors of racism
and give full voice to the pain they generate, but she does so with
inventive and evocative eloquence.
and Kora have absorbed into their natural speaking voices both the
alphabetic shorthand – OMG, WTF, STFU – of a generation more accustomed
to speaking though their thumbs than their mouths, but also some of the
rhythms and off-rhymes of rap – 'You were desired, I was discarded,
richness of the play's language, along with its raw emotions, may be too
much for an audience to absorb, and you may find yourself in danger of
shutting down from sensory overload.
limitation you'll begin to sense is that, as powerful as Lee-Jones's
message is, she really says most of what she wants to say in the first
twenty minutes or so, and then can only repeat herself, metaphorically
shouting louder and louder, until she really has no place to go and no
way to end it.
It is paradoxically evidence of Leanne Henlon's technique and control as a performer, and of the guidance of director Milli Bhatia, that she can allow her Cleo to swing so wildly in her seemingly uncontrollable passion, while Tia Bannon generously serves the play as straightman while also anchoring it in a solid contemporary reality.
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