La Boite have opened their 2022 season with a raucous, rapid-fire contemporary play that plunges audiences into an online realm of tweets, trolls, and tensions. Written by British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones, seven methods of killing kylie jenner premiered in London in 2019 and tackles a broad range of issues with impressive nuance and clever critique. This production, co-directed by Zindzi Okenyo and Shari Sebbens, made its Australian premiere in Sydney last year and is presented in Brisbane by La Boite, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, and Green Door Theatre Company.
Enraged by Forbes’ announcement that Kylie Jenner is supposedly the youngest self-made billionaire, Cleo tweets a few inflammatory things about Jenner; specifically, about the ways in which her whiteness and her wealth contribute to her status, and the ways in which she profits from imitating Black women and Black culture. Cleo’s friend Kara arrives, concerned by the reaction her friend is receiving online, and the two friends discuss everything from sex and relationships to their experiences of racism and the cultivation, performance, and maintenance of an online identity.
As Cleo continues to tweet and the backlash escalates into real and violent threats against her, the tensions in Cleo’s room also begin to boil, with Kara and Cleo both dragging old hurts to the surface. The women eventually argued about their shared past, and times when they hadn’t stood up or made space for each other when they should have. But online life isn’t real life – the rules are different, screenshots are forever, and the tide of public support can turn quickly. The escalating Twitter war was juxtaposed strikingly against the growing rift in Cleo and Kara’s friendship, and authentic accountability became crucial in both as the women were forced to face the harm they had caused in the past.
Although Kylie Jenner is called out explicitly in the play’s title, she is primarily a starting point for discussion about the commodification of Black women’s bodies and culture, as white people continue to make money from imitating and appropriating them. The play uses the titular “seven methods” as a framework to unpack issues as huge and interconnected as colonisation, anti-Black racism, Eurocentric beauty standards, intergenerational trauma, queerphobia, festishisation, and colourism. Although it deals with heavy subject matter, seven methods of killing kylie jenner and its two lead characters are also hilarious and quick-witted, filling the theatre with a playfulness and joy that burned as hot as their rage. The play used humour to explore, but never to dismiss or downplay, the pervasiveness and magnitude of the issues it raised.
Lighting design by Kate Baldwin, audio visual design by Wendy Yu, and production design by Keerthi Subramanyam drew clear boundaries between the online and offline worlds, including the highly effective use of projections, and sound design by Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers added drama and heightened tension to the work.
Moreblessing Maturure and Iolanthe delivered outstanding and unforgettable performances as Cleo and Kara, and their onstage chemistry was dynamic as they performed highly physical blocking and rapid-fire dialogue. They held absolute control of the room throughout the 90-minute work, turning the audience from cackling laughter to breathless, uncomfortable silence on a dime. Cleo’s monologue, close to the end of the play and including the story of Saartjie Baartman, was especially raw and confronting. Both Maturure and Iolanthe maintained consistent English accents, with voice and dialect coaching by Angela Sullen, and their enunciation remained crisp even as the delivery of their lines approached breakneck speed.
seven methods of killing kylie jenner was fast-paced and the language of the play – both the text, and the way it was performed – was truly modern. Maturure and Iolanthe anthropomorphised emojis and embodied memes in a way that was both hilarious and terrifying, and online acronyms fell into the flow of their conversations in a way that felt natural for the stage (or maybe I’m just old, and people do actually speak this way now). The language was lyrical, moving from abbreviations and text-speak to the distinctive rhythms of spoken word poetry with a smoothness that is a testament to the performers and directors, as well as to the unique style of the playwright.
Clever and contemporary, seven methods of killing kylie jenner doesn’t shy away from complex issues as it seamlessly integrates the personal and political, the historical and the present, and wraps it all into a sharp 90-minute show that packs a punch full of laughter and fury.
seven methods of killing kylie jenner will play at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove, from 24 February – 12 March 2022