Award-winning British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones’ provocatively-titled Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner appropriately begins in iPhone lighting. Newly-single student Cleo (Moreblessing Maturure) is lying in bed scrolling through Twitter when she comes across Forbes Magazine’s problematic AF celebration of Kylie Jenner as a ‘self-made billionaire”. Under the username @incognegro, she sets about getting Jenner cancelled for good. Sick and tired of wealthy white women getting credit for capitalist cultural thefts such as by bringing fuller lips into fashion, she spirals into death threats against the social media figure / entrepreneur with #kyliejennerfidead as accompanying hashtag. As bird app notification sounds sing out, things soon spiral, despite her closest friend Kara’s (Iolanthe) best efforts in attempt to talk her down.
The two-hander’s ensuing debates between Cleo and Kara fly fast with harsher stings that parallel the online amplification of Cleo’s tea spill. Accordingly, discussion goes from structural racism to past personal mistakes and apology demands. The two are not the only ones keeping receipts, however, and as Cleo’s campaign goes viral and the online pile-on continues, a comb-through her problematic past posts not only threatens to expose her identify, but brings her to the brink of cancellation.
This is an immediately engaging and riotously funny 90 minute show as Cleo delivers her MLK truths and Kara attempts to dissect the motivation behind Cleo’s Twitter tirade. The duo’s speech is packed full of internetisms. Indeed, the show does not just integrate the language of social media, but makes it integral to its being, especially as the characters recreate the online world’s reaction of Cleo’s rants. As the actors enliven the tweets, over-exaggerated emojis and all, the result is fast-paced and incredibility entertaining, working in wonderful partnership with projections (audio visual designer Wendy Yu) including said tweets and their accompanying iconic gifs. With acronym-filled TL speech occupying such a natural part of their IRL conversation, dialogue is incredibly fast paced, full of Twitter-speak that naturally homes itself as a part of their everyday conversation.
Lee-Jones’ writing is sharp from start to finish, which may be at the expense of full audience appreciation. And while some knowledge of the Kardashian/Jenner celebrity phenomenon will enable IKR appreciation of references of the Jordyn Woods sort, even just a basic pop cultural familiarity will allow for recognition of common meme and gifs of the Nene, MJ and ‘Why You Lying’ sort. Even without this fluency, embodiment of the emotion at the heart of what is being said still speaks volumes, especially in the play’s tonal shift towards a passionate plea to remember past stories.
An essential craftiness ensures that the transition into deeper conversations about homophobia, colourism and the commodification of black women occurs without loss of momentum. Confronting content is handled with respect, including through straightforward description rather than depiction of images of racial violence. Such vivid exploration of the show’s universal themes comes also from the performers’ agility. And while Iolanthe’s energy is pitched to perfectly complement that of the protagonist, this really is Cleo’s story and Maturure’s show. She makes the straight-talking young black activist intelligent and passionate but also vulnerable; her late-show monologue outline of her feelings at finally being heard, conveys a palpable emotional exhaustion that results in deserving mid-scene applause.
TBH, this critically-acclaimed work is everything that theatre should be and should be doing. It’s sharp satire not only shines a light on cultural appropriation, but is wickedly humourous along the way. With dynamic co-direction from Zindzi Okenyo and Shari Sebbens, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is fierce, furious, funny and entirely deserving of the opening night audience’s leap up in curtain call acclamation.