Cleo has always hated Kylie Jenner. At the age of ten, whilst Cleo was being taunted at school for her dark skin and thick lips, the social media influencer was having injections to make her own lips thicker. And when in 2019 Forbes magazine declared 21 year old Kylie Jenner the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, Cleo was furious. ‘A whitey woman born into a rich American family somehow, against all odds, manages to get more rich,’ she fumes. ‘She’s about as self-made as my bed.’
But how does one kill a social media icon? Cleo’s solution is to fight fire with fire – or, more accurately, to fight social media with Twitter. Under the user name @incognegro, she posts tweet after tweet attacking Jenner before enumerating the ways in which she’d like to see her die. Played with passion and visceral anger by Leanne Henlon, Cleo speaks in a combination of prose and rap, sometimes rhyming, sometimes metric as she delivers her judgment.
Cleo’s childhood friend, Kara, is horrified – both by Cleo’s vehemence and by the strength of the social media outburst that results from her posts. Tia Bannon as Kara performs the vicious ripostes in a variety of accents, consummately swinging between middle America, Liverpool and a dozen other voices with effortless ease. ‘I bet the bitch is really some 48-year-old white man from Ohio,’ reads one attack. ‘When it’s done we can string her from a tree, like they used to in the good old days,’ reads another.
Cleo and Kara have grown up with social media, and are comfortable with its abbreviations: their conversation is dotted with WTF, FFS, IDK and IRL among others. No need to spell out the sentiments: the verbal emoji’s speak for themselves.
As the threats continue, the friendship is put to the test. ‘What’s you’re suffering from is an acute case of lightyitis,’ Cleo tells the paler skinned Kara. ‘You might as well be calling me a half breed,’ Kara retorts.
Rajah Shakiry’s set consists of a tangled network of ropes, with dozens of strands hanging down on the performers – the multiple threads of social media made tangible. There are moments of visual wit, too, and Elena Peña’s intricate sound design both drives and punctuates the action.
This is a powerful, emotional play about being young, black and female in contemporary Britain. Jasmine Lee-Jones’ taut script explores the often tense but largely supportive relationship between the two women, with humour and pathos.
After two successful runs at the Royal Court, the play is streaming until April 17. It’s a shame that technical bandwidth issues break the flow with occasional buffering issues; but drama rarely gets more contemporary than this.
Written by: Jasmine Lee-Jones
Directed by: Milli Bhatia
Produced by: Royal Court Theatre
Design by: Rajha Shakiry
Sound design by: Elena Peña
Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is available online via The Royal Court until 17 April here