Review: KISS MARRY KILL, Stone Nest

Homophobia transforms into attraction in this disjointed project.

By: Apr. 19, 2024
Review: KISS MARRY KILL, Stone Nest
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Review: KISS MARRY KILL, Stone Nest Dante or Die are back with another site-specific venture. Burrowed underneath the cold dome of Stone Nest, Kiss Marry Kill feels right at home within the harsh and unholy environment of the venue. Set in a prison against the backdrop of violence, it reframes homophobia and imagines the first same-sex wedding in a British penitentiary. Written by Daphna Attias, James Baldwin, and Terry O’Donovan with Attias and O’Donovan also directing, the piece has many impressive details, but, unfortunately, comes off rather disjointed.

An uneven pace and a dearth of psychological depth combine with a peculiar approach. Scenes of straight acting are interspersed with fiery, damning songs sung by Lady Lykez that move the plot forward with a proud increase in energy. This revision of modus operandi is, mostly, to be taken at face value as it doesn’t make a lot of sense structurally. It livens up the drama and revives the somewhat flat dialogue, turning into the highlight of the production.

Review: KISS MARRY KILL, Stone Nest

As a whole, it’s an interesting concept, but the material wears thin. The meagre character analysis leads towards far-fetched shifts in the storyline for our star-crossed lovers. Both imprisoned for murders, Jay’s (Dauda Ladejobi) hatred suddenly transforms into romantic love for Paul (Graham Mackay-Bruce), one of the other inmates. This change of heart happens so abruptly and with so little explanation that it feels like we’ve skipped a few parts.

The attempt at romanticising the situation fails to take due to the shocking lack of chemistry between the performers, while the condemnation of the catalyst (the cold-blooded murder of a man in a public toilet) is relegated to Jay’s exchanges with the dead man’s husband. There is not much social critique beyond “men are homophobic because they’re probably afraid to be gay”. Being closeted becomes the root of all evil when the conversation is definitely more complex.

The debris of Jay’s abrupt infatuation remains discarded out of sight. His former fiancée and new baby are easily put out of mind so that he can be with Paul. His emotional confusion is short-lived and riddled with artificial turns of phrase that appear exceedingly out-of-place, especially given Jay’s issues with reading. In all this, Ayse Tashkiran’s movement direction is, at times, more eloquent than the script.

She expertly conveys the repetitive nature of life behind bars and goes the extra mile to use the full space. Tashkiran utilises Sophie Neil’s set design, which is in itself characterised by a distinct visual discomfort, to distribute the action on different levels and grip the attention of the audience. All in all, it’s not Dante or Die at their best. The sociopolitical discourse is nearly nonexistent and the dramatic narrative is quite untidy throughout. The company are strong in their delivery, but they can’t save a text that has very little to say.

Kiss Marry Kill runs at Stone Nest until 27 April.

Photo Credit: Greta Zabulyte




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