Best Served Cold
This week saw me back at Vault Festival to see Best Served Cold.
In it a young man seeks to explain why he posted online intimate photos of his ex-girlfriend, an activity dubbed revenge porn in which young women are disproportionately the victim.
That isn't a spoiler; anyone who reads the publicity material or sees the poster knows that is what is coming. What they may not have imagined is that they would be in for such a well thought out, gripping piece of storytelling.
If the purpose of theatre is to entertain and provoke then Best Served Cold succeeds on both counts.
Writer Cordelia Lynn has convincingly grasped the voice of a young man, and his hopes and anxieties are laid bare with a tender freshness.
There is a confessional style to the way he speaks into a camera and then, acknowledging the audience, he makes us oddly complicit to his admissions.
Lynn provides a crafted narrative, taking us through his life story in a series of discontinuous formative events moving the action through time with clarity, building to a chilling, albeit predictable, end.
Taylor Frost delivers a thoughtful performance as The Young Man and director Holly Race Roughan’s staging and pacing reflects the character’s changing moods.
As the narrative progresses, it also becomes clear that seating the men on the opposite side of the auditorium from the women is much more than a gimmick.
The Young Man starts sharing his thoughts apparently equally but then the questions become targeted, almost excluding the men or the women, empathy sought from either one camp or another.
The conundrum that Cordelia Lynn leaves us in is that we like The Young Man. He is appealing—funny, touchingly honest and open, somehow quite innocent.
We have witnessed the seminal points in his life, his struggle to behave correctly whilst youthful hormones rage, his need to be loved, his rejection.
So how do we react to his unimaginable cruelty? Where is the line? Is revenge always unreasonable when confronted with the unbearable pain of heartbreak? Is it that straightforward for us to condemn him?
Best Served Cold is a most 21st century of plays. It is a story that could not have happened in an earlier time and its defiant ending has all the more strength in light of legislation only recently making the sharing of intimate images without consent a criminal offence.
If you want a comfortable evening at the theatre snuggled up to your loved one, look elsewhere. If want to be entertained by an interesting treatment of a challenging contemporary issue, this is for you.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti