Tag Archives: Tia Bannon

“Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner” at the Royal Court

The murderous intentions within Jasmine Lee-Jones’ play – back after a sell-out run in 2019 – aren’t really aimed at a particular person. While an heiress invokes the online ire of the character Cleo, the play tackles the subject of racism. Like her creation, it is the playwright’s engagement with social media that makes this award-winning debut original and exciting.

Cleo is joined by her old friend Kara shortly after she sends a first tweet threatening Kylie. They argue, as Cleo descends into a social media storm. Tackling cultural appropriation, capitalism, and queerness – each in relation to race – makes the show an intense 90 minutes. If the women’s relationship feels by turns lost and less interesting than the issues raised, the action is firmly controlled by director Milli Bhatia.

Lee-Jones puts flesh on the bones of Cleo’s academic theories poignantly, and has a go at presenting more than one side of the argument with interjections from Kara. Through strong performances by Tia Bannon and Leanne Henlon, the debates seldom feel forced, indeed they are a great deal of fun. But it is with her language that Lee-Jones thrills: plenty of plays have tried to tackle Twitter, but this script gives the medium a run for its money.

The rhythm in Lee-Jones’ dialogue is impressive enough. And effective: talking of Jenner’s “images of herself and wealth” serves the play’s theme, but it is the neologisms and acronyms that are dazzling – if difficult – making up much of the friends’ conversation and the tweets from others that we hear as well. It can’t just be my own age that makes this tricky to follow. And do the acronyms rise in number as the play goes on? Or at moments of stress? This is a text to be studied, with every word and shorthand phrase demanding attention.

Such innovation ensures incredible respect for Bannon and Henlon’s delivery of lines learned. And personas adopted: both show online reactions with repeated phrases, exaggerated accents and otherworldly movement. The idea of Twitter as an echo chamber comes to life on stage with Rajha Shakiry’s arboreal-inspired design and brilliant work with sound from Elena Peña.

I won’t pretend to have understood every word of Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner. But the combination of articulacy and (sometimes literally) nonsense, of the cerebral and the base – an effective summation of online content – is a brilliantly accomplished achievement.

Until 27 July 2021


Photo by Myah Jeffers

“Abigail” at The Bunker Theatre

This spiky, provocative tale, written by Fiona Doyle, chops back and forth through the one-year relationship between a damaged woman and the man who becomes her unwitting victim. A psychological thriller, imbued with the spirit of a nasty fairy tale, it packs a good deal into just an hour and cannot fail to impress.

Joshua McTaggart directs with appropriate efficiency. We see the couples’ first meeting, holidays and arguments, circling around their sole anniversary. The short scenes are tensely interspaced and the quick changes in chronology a credit to the superb actors. Mark Rose makes his unnamed character satisfyingly rounded, an affable presence, he gives a performance of great technical skill when it comes to depicting physical injury. Tia Bannon tackles even more violent shifts just as admirably, being charming one minute, spooky and scary the next. Stories about a traumatised past are especially well delivered, with too much sympathy carefully avoided.

McTaggart and Doyle don’t dally over their efforts, giving less than the bare minimum to pin a lot down. Avoiding details makes the writing admirably crisp – I look forward to more work from this team – but it doesn’t aid clarity. While creating a sense of mystery is all very well, at times the intrigue becomes frustrating. Since Doyle is enamoured of withholding information, only partly as a technique for suspense, it would be churlish to give too much away. The clue is in the title (thanks, Wikipedia) as Abigail is usually associated with the role of handmaid. Suffice to say subservience here has a dangerous edge. The twists are great and this world of poison, graves and glass splinters is evocative. But it could benefit from elaboration.

Until 4 February 2017


Photo by Anton Belmonté for 176 Flamingo Lane