Photos: Helen Murray
It’s 5 March 2019 and two young women drag a body through the darkness to bury it in the stage. A few hours earlier, Forbes tweeted that Kylie Jenner became the youngest self-made billionaire ever, and it’s here this important and brilliant new play by Jasmine Lee-Jones begins.
seven methods… takes places in two spaces – the Twittersphere and IRL (or, in real life for those unfamiliar with the term). In reply to the Forbes tweet Cleo, a young black woman, tweets as her online persona @Incognegro saying “YT woman born into rich American family, somehow against all odds, manages to get more rich……” along with a meme of a black woman slow clapping. Her Twitter thread continues to accuse Jenner of appropriating black culture to be lapped up by white people before suggesting killing off the “con artist-cum-provocateur.”
Danielle Vitalis is phenomenal as Cleo/Incognegro – her frustrated anger pouring out in a mix of bitingly sharp eloquent speeches and tweets. She argues Jenner is “about as self-made as my bed”, pointing out the Forbes tweet represents hundreds of years of “anti-blackness, positive affirmations of capitalism, cultural appropriation”, white people profiteering from the pain of black women. Over the course of nearly 90 minutes, Vitalis presents Cleo’s opinions with passion and superbly delivers Lee-Jones’s use of Twitter acronyms, slang and, as her friend Kara puts it, “dissertation” -speak.
But this is by no means a one-woman show. Tia Bannon is equally brilliant as Kara, Cleo’s black mixed-race queer friend, who confronts Cleo’s use of online violent language as unnecessary. Bannon possibly has more opportunity to showcase a greater range of emotions, her upset at Cleo’s historic tweets and personal attacks (comparing her being mixed raced to being like diluted Ribena) resonating strongly with the audience. At times some of Kara’s responses to things she doesn’t understand feel a little repetitive but this is a minor quibble in an otherwise brilliant text.
Despite what the title suggests, this isn’t a play that only focuses on said fantasy homicide, nor does it only concentrate on black culture as this review may suggest. It spirals and sprawls to cover long held grudges, homophobia, racialism and racial stereotypes, gender identity, memes, the ramifications of airing your views in a public domain… the list goes on. But at no point does it feel like it’s all too much – it’s not so much overflowing with ideas but rather it attends to everything with due care, respect and attention.
It’s an interesting script to look at too in a visual sense, unlike any I’ve seen before. Not only does Lee-Jones use emojis and screengrabs but there are memes and animated gifs in there too. A note at the beginning of the text encourages the actors to embody these elements and the monstrous transformation from IRL to Twittersphere really helps mark out the difference between the two spaces along with the brilliant technical aspects of the show.
Rajha Shakiry’s design is simple but stunning – a giant web made of hundreds of threads cleverly evokes the play’s Twittersphere while the occasional strands hanging down resembling the braids and weaves the young women discuss, the thicker parts reminiscent of American lynchings. The design complements the text perfectly, as does Elena Peña’s sound design – the tweeting of birds as the audience enters another intelligent nod of what is to come, and the live distortion of voices in the Twittersphere along with Delphine Gaborit’s hugely effective movement brings to life the often horrific nature of the online world.
Alongside director Milli Bhatia, Jasmine Lee-Jones has created a production that is eye-opening, provocative and devastatingly powerful in its takedown of accepted societal norms. Clever, funny, heart-breaking and brutally honest, seven methods of kylie jenner is a near perfect play and one that needs to be seen.