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Kiss Marry Kill | Stone Nest

Kiss Marry Kill is a riveting theatrical journey that explores the depths of love, identity, and the harsh realities of institutionalised homophobia. Written by the talented trio of Daphna Attias, James Baldwin, and Terry O’Donovan, and co-directed by award-winning Dante or Die’s Attias and O’Donovan, this production is a culmination of five years of meticulous research and extensive interviews, resulting in a poignant narrative inspired by true events.

The play begins with Jay (Dauda Ladejobi) giving a graphic, distressing description of the homophobic murder that led to his imprisonment. Told in the third person, as if detached from his own identity, this narration immediately raises questions about who Jay truly is. Leaving behind his fiancée and baby, Jay is sentenced to life in prison, where he meets Paul (Graham Mackay Bruce). Engaging in transactional sex as a means of survival, such as through accepting payment through vapes, canteen items or sexual favours, Jay eventually finds himself inexplicably developing feelings for Paul. Their relationship deepens, leading them to become a couple and making the unconventional decision to marry.

Ladejobi delivers a confident and compelling performance as Jay, portraying his journey of self-discovery with raw humanity. Bruce captivates as Paul, skilfully navigating his character's complex nature with a steely gaze that veers between danger and vulnerability, offering an emotional portrayal of a man torn between conflicting impulses. Sharing the spotlight is Lady Lykez who shines in multiple roles, moving between girlfriend Kerry and a prison warden, while also delivering powerful raps and musical interludes that enhance the grittiness of the narrative. Her dynamic performances add a unique dimension to the storytelling, elevating the emotional depth of the production.

The supporting cast, including Morgan Archer, Frank Skully, and Dean Statham, take on a range of characters, each contributing to the rich and diverse perspectives surrounding the central relationship. They are committed and their performances that add depth and nuance to the exploration of prejudice and societal norms within the prison environment.

Set against the backdrop of Sophie Neil's inventive set design, which ingeniously utilises recycled bunk beds to evoke the prison setting, the ensemble delivers a series of meticulously choreographed scenes that juxtapose moments of tenderness with shocking violence. Josh Gadsby's lighting design further enhances the atmosphere, guiding the audience through the stark realities faced by the characters.

The decision to stage the production at Stone Nest, a former church, adds a layer of symbolism to the performance, inviting reflection on themes of religion, faith, and hope. The venue's sparse, echoing hall amplifies the stripped-back intensity of the drama, immersing the audience in the characters' struggles.

Kiss Marry Kill is more than a prison drama; it is a nuanced exploration of humanity and human rights. The inclusion of a diverse cast adds depth to the narrative, amplifying voices that are often unheard or overlooked, and confronts audiences with urgent questions about the nature of love and its complex boundaries of acceptance. As the audience leaves the theatre, they are left pondering if love is (really) love and whether it can transcend the confines of prejudice and societal expectations.

Kiss Mary Kill plays at Stone Nest until 27th April. For information and tickets, follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Greta Zabulyte


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