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Kiss Marry Kill

Daphna Attias, James Baldwin and Terry O’Donovan

Dante or Die

Hallé St Peters

May 10-12, 2024; 1hr 30mins

Dauda Ladejobi and Graham Mackay-Bruce in Dante or Die's Kiss Marry Kill at Hallé St Peters in Ancoats. All pics: Greta Zabulyte.
Dauda Ladejobi and Graham Mackay-Bruce in Dante or Die's Kiss Marry Kill at Hallé St Peters in Ancoats. All pics: Greta Zabulyte.

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Site-specific theatre company Dante or Die describes its work as "new performances in unexpected places". They’ve created shows for leisure centres, hotel rooms and self-storage buildings. This time they’ve chosen places where people get married. 

Kiss Marry Kill reimagines the first same-sex wedding in a UK prison. For the Manchester stop on the tour, the location is the stunning deconsecrated church Hallé St Peters in Ancoats.

Unsurprisingly, given the company’s specialism, the performance area is perfectly integrated into the venue. Metal beds and frames cage the audience and actors into a prison space. A gymnasium floor is marked out with coloured tape on vinyl.  And yet the set doesn’t mask or hide the chapel. The building, its history and what it is used for, are a character in the story. And it isn’t an easy-going story. 

Jay (Dauda Ladejobi) enters a bathroom and his life changes forever. After perpetrating a violent homophobic murder, he is jailed, leaving behind a pregnant fiancee about to give birth.

Adjustment to life inside is tough. He crosses the wrong person in flirty prison power-player Paul (Graham Mackay-Bruce) and is also haunted by confusing nightmares dominated by self-hate.

Inspired by a desire to read to his newborn son and to write to his victim’s husband, Jay reaches out to Paul for help. A decision borne of the need to stop causing trouble ends up creating all sorts of complications, of a different kind. 

Kiss Marry Kill is complicated. This is a love story, but one that is challenging, uncomfortable at times, dangerous even. 

The three writers have spent years engaging with both prison and LGBTQ+ communities and it shows. The complexities are never shied away from.

That’s not to say it is perfect. While the dialogue is sometimes painfully realistic, there are moments when lines feel untrue in the mouths of the characters speaking them.

Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan have deftly directed a pacey show. The energy and unsettling atmosphere never drop, but it means some plot developments feel like crunchy gear changes.

What’s outstanding is Yaniv Fridel and Ofer Shabi’s sound design. A bustling football pub, a claustrophobic toilet, the beeps and bangs and din of a prison, the hushed but panicked breath of forced solitude. All perfectly realised. 

Those sounds are complemented by the songs and spoken word performances of Lady Lykez, who also takes on various acting roles in the ensemble brilliantly. 

Mackay-Bruce and Ladejobi are both outstanding as the leads. Their parts are full of depth and nuance. 

Special mention too for Frank Skully, who plays the prison governor and several, less sympathetic characters.

The talented ensemble is aided by some fantastic movement direction from Ayse Tashkiran, sequences are both touching and disturbing; as complex as the subject matter. 

It must be said that potential audience members should take note, but not be scared away, by the trigger warnings for both language and subject matter.

People who do choose to see Kiss Marry Kill may well have it on their minds, and be unsure what to think about it, for quite some time. They will absolutely be wowed, though, by the marriage of story and space. 

More info and tickets here.


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