Review: seven methods of killing kylie jenner

by Lynn on May 19, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Streetcar Crowsnest Studio Theatre, Toronto, Ont. An Obsidian Theatre Production in association with Crow’s Theatre, playing until June 2, 2024.

Written by Jasmine Lee-Jones

Directed by Jay Northcott

Set by Nick Blais

Costumes by Des’ree Gray

Lighting by Christopher-Elizabeth

Sound by Maddie Bautista

Video by Laura Warren

Cast: Jasmine Case

Déjah Dixon-Green

Gripping production, terrific play.

The Story. Kylie Jenner is the youngest daughter of Kris and the former Bruce Jenner before they transitioned to become Caitlyn Jenner. Kylie is a socialite, tv personality, famous for being famous and a business woman who has a clothing and makeup line that has made her a billionaire at 26. Her half siblings are the Kardashians.

seven methods of killing kylie jenner, is the first play by British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones who wrote it in 2019 and it was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Eng. It won all sorts of award and Jasmine Lee-Jones won awards as the most promising playwright of 2019.

The play is about two Black women—Cleo and Kara—who are friends in their early 20s and deep into social media especially Twitter. Cleo in particular is raging. She loathes Kylie Jenner because she’s promoted as a self-made billionaire, when in fact she comes from money to begin with. Cleo has posted a tweet expressing her animosity towards Kylie Jenner and notes the seven methods Cleo has come up with of killing Kylie Jenner.

Initially the reason for this animosity is that Kylie Jenner filled in her lips to become fuller and Cleo is offended as a Black woman because she feels that by making her lips bigger, Kylie Jenner is appropriating one of the physicalities of a Black woman. There are more reasons for this animosity that come out in the bracing production.

The Production. Designer Nick Blais has created a set that says ‘modern’ and personal. It takes place in I assume is Cleo’s (Déjah Dixon-Green) bedroom in which a large circular bed is the center. The coverings are red plush with lots of red pillows. Several computer screens are suspended in the air, with many old-fashioned televisions are on the floor. As the play begins, two women haul on something wrapped and bound in a black garbage bag. It’s heavy. They deposit at the back of the bed. Is the body of Kylie Jenner in the wrapping? One can wonder.

Cleo dressed in pink shorts, a top and fluffy pink boot, begins an angry ‘rap’, tirade into a microphone as if she’s doing stand-up. Cleo’s best friend is Kara, Jasmine Case who is dressed in black parachute pants and a midriff top with a small tie.

Cleo is raging because so many things have piled up on her beginning with being dumped by her present boyfriend. As a Black woman she feels diminished, unseen and insulted. And here is this celebrity appropriating full lips and exploiting them for her own image.

Kara tries to reason with her, offering another point of view, and challenging her thinking. This dredges up past slights over their friendship beginning in public school.  Kara is a light-skinned Black woman and Cleo is darker skinned. So the whole subject of colourism is debated. Cleo believes that Kara’s light skin is considered more beautiful and desirable than her own dark skin, and itemizes the times Kara has been called beautiful and Cleo has not. The suggestion is that Kara’s life has been easier because of her light skin and Cleo has had it tougher. Kara is queer, Cleo is straight. They wrangle about that.  

We do hear of the seven methods to kill Kylie Jenner involving such physical abuses as poison, being shot, drowned, skinned but then there are psychological methods like disgrace and displacement, and the play takes on a larger shape and reference after this.

Cleo references Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, a Black woman who lived from 1789-1815—was born in what is now South Africa, and because of her pronounced physicality was exhibited in circuses and freak shows across Europe and treated as a specimen by doctors and scientists. Sarah’s treatment negated her as a human being.

seven methods of killing kylie jenner then becomes a metaphor for humiliation of Black women because of their physical traits and how they are treated in general. And so Cleo wanted Kylie Jenner killed because of that appropriation of Black womanhood. The play is raucously funny but then with the introduction of Saartjie Baartman, it becomes sobering as well.

Of course, social media, especially Twitter enters into it like gangbusters. Both Cleo and Kara are devoted to posting tweets on Twitter. They talk in that language for the most part even using as part of their conversation the internet abbreviations such as: BW (Black Woman), DPMO (Don’t piss me off), ROFL (Rolling on the floor laughing), along with WTF (What the Fuck), BS (bullshit), CBA (can’t be arsed). The programme helpfully lists a dictionary of many and various abbreviations and their meanings. As they play goes on, the use of these abbreviations become more frequent and involved so that one not used to them can get lost trying to figure them out.

Don’t despair.

Knowing that that is how Cleo and Kara talk to one another is the point and the abbreviations don’t hide information the audience needs to follow their arguments. Both Cleo and Kara are intelligent women who read and study and the arguments are articulate, thoughtful and reasoned. Cleo has to take the heat of the Twitter world and the comments of the (anti)social media regarding her posts on Kylie Jenner.

Initially I thought that if Kylie Jenner so upset Cleo, just because she was a white rich woman, then ignore her. But that’s not Cleo and Kara’s world. Cleo particularly is bound to that world of likes and shares and comments. She is really wounded when Kara does something to show her displeasure with the way the discussion went. Cleo needs that world of instant gratification. The play is fascinating and terrifying.

Jay Northcott has directed a tightly wound production, using the space to create a sense of intense confrontation and also loyalty and friendship of the two women. The acting is stellar. Déjah Dixon-Green as Cleo is fierce. She is formidable in an argument and at times gives her thoughts in a torrent through a microphone, as if she is doing stand-up or a performance. At times it’s so overpowering and loud, some words get lost, but the attitude is clear.

Jasmine Case as Kara is more tempered but just as formidable. She offers Cleo the voice of reason, understanding and compassion, until Cleo goes too far. Both actors are beautifully matched.

Playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones has written a startling play that begins as the personal rage of a Black woman that then builds into a deeper anger using the humiliation of Saantjie (Sarah) Baartman as a metaphor for the humiliation, disgrace and displacement of Black women in general.

One of the most interesting facts about Saantjie (Sarah) Baartman is not that she has been forgotten by history. In fact she has been memorialized, dramatized and noted in novels, plays and scientific papers since the time of William Makepeace Thackery in the 1800s when he noted her in his novel “Vanity Fair right up until a few years ago when Meghan Swaby was inspired by Saantjie (Sarah) Baartman’s story when Swaby wrote her play Venus’ Daughter (2016).

Comment. Interestingly the only hint that seven methods of killing kylie jenner is set/written in Brittain is the use at the end of the play of the British word “crisps” for “potato chips” in North America. The play’s title is deliberately noted in small letters and not capital letters, including the proper name, Kylie Jenner. The Obsidian/Crow’s production is the Canadian premiere.

An Obsidian Theatre Production in association with Crow’s Theatre

Plays until June 2, 2024.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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