The Royal Court is back with a banger.
First seen in the small upstairs space in 2019, Jasmine Lee-Jones’s debut play, directed by Milli Bhatia, returns on the main stage to kick off a new season at Sloane Square’s famous venue.
It’s classic Royal Court fare: Provocative? Check Political? Check. Relevant? Check. Passionate? Thought-provoking? Shitloads of swearing? Check. Check. Check.
At the heart of this powerful exploration of race, cultural appropriation and queerness through the prism of social media are two unforgettable performances from Leanne Henlon and Tia Bannon.
Henlon plays Cleo, a black woman who responds to the double standards around Kylie Jenner’s lip fillers by tweeting a thread of death threats against the billionaire reality TV star. Cleo’s never lost for words and speaks in social media slang at 100mph. Henlon imbues her with magnificent rage and pathos.
Bannon is funny, vulnerable and passionate as her mixed race friend Kara. A yin to Cleo’s yang.
Aside from Cleo’s hash-tagged fantasies of celebrity homicide, the play’s clever structure divides the scenes into real-world exchanges between the two friends, and what Jasmine Lee-Jones describes in her playtext as “Twitterludes”.
These see Henlon and Bannon bring a Twitterstorm into physical form – including emojis, memes and GIFs – in superbly choreographed sequences of sound and movement, which put me in mind of the chorus in ancient Greek drama.
Lee-Jones’s energetic script doesn’t skimp on modern-day zingers. One of Cleo’s Kylie Jenner tweets reads: ‘The last flash of light she’ll see/ Will not be a selfie/ But the coroner’s camera.”
I can’t not mention Rajha Shakiry’s surreal set design which I took to represent the Twittersphere as a huge cumulonimbus of neurons suspended over the stage.
While the play does occasionally feel more like dissertation than drama, and ends awkwardly, this is a shockingly original 90 minutes that really should be seen.
Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is at the Royal Court, Sloane Square, London until 27 July.