Preface: I attended Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner as a reviewer on April 21. I read the script in advance, drove 100 kilometres to attend the show, drove 100 kilometres home, wrote the review, filed it the next morning, and then learned that the producers did not want me reviewing their production because I was not a person of colour. The Sydney Morning Herald eventually decided to abide by this request. I disagreed, while accepting that the arguments involved were were extremely nuanced (including that I should have been forewarned). The SMH offered the producers space on the opinion page to explain their point of view. They declined. Since the show has now closed, I have opted to publish. Theatre is the ultimate art-form for nurturing empathy. Plays should touch everyone of us, not set out to exclude certain perspectives.
Eternity Playhouse, April 21
Jasmine Lee-Jones has a way of getting under your skin – which is handy, given her play is largely about racism and colourism, with side-orders of homophobia and what we might call “entitlementism”. That the imaginative and vigorous Seven Methods of Killing Kyle Jenner was also her first play suggests the UK writer had provocation long welling in her veins.
Kylie Jenner, 23, is real: an entrepreneur and Kardashian clan-member, with over 200 million Instagram followers and about four times that number of dollars. Lee-Jones has her lead character, Cleo, a Black African UK immigrant, object to Jenner being described as “self-made”. “She’s about as self-made as my bed,” she declares, and, as @INCOGNEGRO, unleashes a series of tweets enumerating ways to remove her. Thankfully
Jenner refrained from having the play shut down as an incitement to violence.
Moreblessing Maturure’s performance inclines you to forgive Cleo’s misdemeanours. She rounds out the character, making her bolder, more vulnerable, funnier and more cantankerous. She also offers a physical presence of such acute angles carved from elbows, knees and jutting chin that it’s as if she has to punch holes in the air in order to express herself.
Her best friend, Kara (Vivienne Awosoga), is a vibrant, happier creature, which Cleo attributes to her skin not being as dark as her own, so she’s waded through fewer cesspits of racism. The irony is that Cleo can’t hear her own bigoted barbs, including towards Kara’s lesbianism. Awosoga’s Kara is likable, playful and kittenish, if not quite a match for Maturure’s creation.
The third character is the Twittersphere – exchanges we see on screens as the two characters enunciate them. Director Shari Sebbens’ cleverly has her actors sometimes deliver these as semi-raps, accompanied by Afro-flavoured hip hop devised by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers. The Sebbens/Bowers collaboration is a highlight of this joint Darlinghurst/Green Door Theatre production, as is Sebbens’ choreographing of the actors.
Brimming with anger, humour and ideas, Lee-Jones has nutted out an ingenious integration of social media into theatre, as Chloe lurches towards self-discovery. The play is mostly sharp in terms of both its wit and its punches, but it bogs down in moments when the narrative needed more TLC amid the lush gardens of diatribe.