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Camilla Care

Review: Kiss Marry Kill, Stone Nest

Vaseline 1 month ago


About five years ago, Terry O’Donovan, the co-artistic director of Dante or Die, came across a news article about two men serving life sentences for homophobic murders who married each other while in prison. It seemed such an extraordinary event that he told his team, whose subsequent research, based on input from people with experience in the criminal justice system, led to the astonishing, provocative play Kiss Marry Kill. This is a thrilling performance of an exceptional, thoughtful work. The issues raised are mind-bogglingly complex, yet sensitively explored in a sophisticated, emotionally charged portrayal. The shape of the piece, the mixing…

Judgement



Indispensable!

An extraordinarily fascinating, exciting and deeply moving investigation into the same-sex marriage of two men imprisoned for homophobic murder. It will challenge your beliefs to the core.

About five years ago Dante or die‘Co-artistic director Terry O’Donovan found a news article about two men who were serving life sentences for homophobic murders and married each other while in prison. It seemed such an extraordinary event that he told his team, whose subsequent research, based on input from people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, led to the astonishing, provocative play Kiss, marry, kill.

This is a thrilling performance of an exceptional, thoughtful work. The issues raised are mind-bogglingly complex, yet sensitively explored in a sophisticated, emotionally charged portrayal. The very form of the piece, which combines highly theatrical drama with beautiful music and movement, helps clear up confusion and manifest understanding, but ultimately leaves the audience wrestling with their own conclusions about what is acceptable.

Jay (Dauda Ladejobi) begins with a gripping, harrowing description of the homophobic murder that landed him in prison. It’s told in the third person – as if it’s not part of who he is, and immediately we’re confronted with questions of identity. He leaves his fiancée and baby behind and is sent to prison for life. There he meets Paul (Graham Mackay Bruce) and becomes involved in transactional sex. But inexplicably he develops feelings for Paul. The pair become a couple and decide to get married.

This script, by O’Donovan in combination with Daphna Attias And James Baldwin, is mind-bogglingly compelling and utterly all-encompassing. We follow how these men came to murder and found same-sex love, touching on the role of parents, substandard education and social shortcomings. We are asked to consider ideas of equality, human rights, redemption, love and sex in prison. At the same time, the protagonists’ predicaments balance against difficult issues such as restorative justice, a failing, homophobic prison system and the role of the church.

Ladejobi and Bruce’s performances are excellent – ​​sometimes brutal, but sometimes poignantly vulnerable as the prisoners navigate a world where homosexuality is abhorrent and homophobia is institutionalized. Ladejobi is confidently convincing as Jay discovers his true self and exposes raw humanity. This is a man failed by society, poorly educated and without adequate language to even describe his own feelings. Meanwhile, the charismatic Bruce succinctly captures Paul’s ambiguous nature, his steely gaze piercing and dangerous, but in the blink of an eye a sparkling twinkle: the perfect study of an individual as both man and killer. A versatile supporting cast gives powerful presence to conflicting voices and postures, and beautifully choreographed ensemble movements alternate with shocking violence.

Attias and O’Donovan direct with utmost precision in an intense, often surprising ninety minutes in which the audience, close together, is enveloped in an intimate, forbidden debate. Surreal moments describe mental instability and detachment from reality, while musical styles shift Yaniv Fridel and complicated, lyrical rap Lady Lykez lead us suggestively through the changing atmosphere of prison life.

Even the choice of location speaks to the content of the piece: an underground chapel with a huge vaulted ceiling where it is still possible to get married. In scale, the scope of the issues raised is equal to the suggestion of institutional space in the stone walls.

Sophie NeilThe film’s astonishing set design makes inventive use of recycled prison beds, which are used to shape new spaces and levels, injecting energy and vitality into the performance. Additionally, Josh Gadsby does an excellent job of illuminating a difficult space and carving out unexpected spaces in the enormous chapel to create intensity and intimacy.

This is an utterly compelling work, expertly and thrillingly executed, that takes your breath away. It may keep you awake at night thinking about the hugely important questions it raises, but don’t miss it!


Written by Daphna Attias, James Baldwin and Terry O’Donovan
Director: Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan
Dramaturgy by: Lisa Goldman
Set and costume design by: Sophie Neil
Lighting design by: Joshua Gadsby
Composer and sound design by: Yaniv Fridel (Soho Sonic) and Ofer (OJ) Shabi
Lyrics and songs by: Lady Lykez
Movement Directed by: Ayse Tashkiran
Additional sound design by: Ben Kelly
Produced by: Dante of Die

Kiss, marry, kill runs through Saturday, April 27 at Stone Nest before heading out on tour. Booking details can be found here and tour details here.