Jasmine Lee Jones, Writer of the Royal Court’s Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner sits down with Eleanor Dewar to chat industry support, privilege and the importance of truth.
When you ask most people what they were doing when they were 20, I’d guess the answers would range from travelling, attending university and nursing hangovers. Writing a play is probably not a popular answer, but 20 year old Jasmine Lee Jones has done exactly that, with her debut: Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner currently playing at the Royal Court in London.
When I ring for the interview, neither of us are in good shape. Jasmine is inflicted with a throat infection and I am struggling with a temperature and headache, but Jasmine is so lovely and relaxed it feels like chatting to a friend. After seeing the play the previous night too, I have a lot to say. Seven Methods… is beautifully chaotic as it tells the story of two best friends: Cleo and Kara dealing with the fallout from the former’s slightly controversial tweet as old tensions comes to light. The unique blend of social media and ‘Generation Z’ issues made it one of the few plays that really spoke to me and connected with the concerns my friends and I face.
The journey of the play is almost as interesting as the play itself with Lee Jones starting out in the Andrea Project in 2017, where Jones had the opportunity to write short ten-minute plays based on the work of Andrea Dunbar. It was during this course that the Kardashians were brought up and in a mix of perfect timing, Kylie had just announced her lip kits. “I went away and wrote the title, and one of the course members asked me if that was the title of the play and I just said yes,” Lee Jones explains the genius title of her play. First it was a poem, then a ten-minute reading at the Court. “I was asked to develop but I wasn’t sure,” she explains to me. But thankfully, something shifted, and Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner was born.
I ask Lee Jones about her reasoning for choosing such a specific celebrity. She explains to me that: “We’ve sort of grown up together. It’s like some same parallel politic lexicon of Generation Z.” Identity is a key theme in the play and also appears to be one of the reasons behind choosing Kylie, with Lee Jones “understanding [her] own identity alongside her very public one.” Kylie’s very public and wealthy upbringing is prevalent in the play with some cracking lines about her apparent ‘self-made’ billionaire status, with “she’s as self-made as my bed” being my personal favourite. But one thing I notice about Lee Jones is that nothing about her craft is forced, even with fundamental decisions like which celebrity she wants her characters to apparently wish dead, not being a “conscious decision.”
It is this fluidity which makes the play’s characters so relatable. Like me and the young women I know, they are interchangeable, passionate and in the case of Cleo can be quite unpleasant. Her truths are truths, but as the play develops, Cleo’s own actions are revealed. I pose this as potential hypocrisy and a risk that audiences may not like her. “I quite like it if people dislike her, we’re all hypocrites and they [Cleo and Kara) are flawed.” It’s the flaws of these characters that Lee Jones is keen to talk about, claiming that “it is important to represent two flawed black women” in light of what she describes as a “representational gap” of people of colour. She explains: “I crave something authentic, she’s [Cleo] an angry black woman because that’s how she feels, I’m not interested in making anything palatable.” If that is her aim, then in this play, Lee Jones has more than succeeded. The small setting of the Court and the horrific events that both Cleo and Kara must endure all combine to make for some uncomfortable viewing. “I want to write something true. How we deal with our flaws on a political level, past history and present circumstances and how we hold ourselves accountable to those flaws.”
Another definitive thing about the play is social media, with the play submerged in it throughout. ‘Twitter’ is an active character in the play with hundreds of thousands of voices being heard on a tiny stage and not all of them are nice. This sort of mob justice via social media is something we have seen occurring at lot in the news with James Charles and James Gunn being pulled up over old and problematic tweets. “We were doing it before twitter. Before that there were colosseums, people would mob people and would put them in with lions, people being tar and feathered. It’s not new and it’s reflective of human nature. We need to interrogate our reasoning behind wanting to cast people out.” Despite the bleakness of some of the play with how characters are treated and treat others online, Lee Jones asserts that “empathy is not lost and is the ruling thing we need, space for acceptance and apology.”
To round off our chat, I ask Lee Jones about the impact the support she has both professionally and personally, and the first people she mentions are her parents. “In some sense I am very privileged. I just got into the right programme, mum and dad were so supportive, put money aside for after school courses.” Alongside the invaluable support given to her by her family, Jasmine also praises the “fantastic outreach programme” of the Royal Court, “ What’s so special about the Court, is they always treated me as an adult writer or an established writer – sensitive to what I need. Theatre spaces can be so elitist and I’ve never felt it there.” The impact of the Royal Court’s programmes is clear, as proven by the production of this unique play; something that otherwise may never have been written. “Even if I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Jasmine finishes, “it’s amazing to give someone that opportunity.”