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Best Served Cold review at the Vaults, London – ‘palpable anger’

Taylor Frost in Best Served Cold at the Vaults, London Taylor Frost in Best Served Cold at the Vaults, London Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Best Served Cold makes an immediate statement of intent by dividing its audience, seating men and women on opposing sides of the stage. If that sounds gimmicky – and indicative of a reductively binary attitude towards gender – it does lend itself to the direct address of Cordelia Lynn’s play, as we see the unnamed Angry Young Man deciding whether to direct his comments to the men or the women in his audience.

It’s an elegant way of looking at the performative nature of his apparent nice-guy persona, under which lies a furious, roiling bed of misogyny – but he’s never quite nice enough for that to work. Taylor Frost’s Angry Young Man is strange and unnerving, which makes it easy to other him when he should be frightening because of his very normality; because we live in a culture that has normalised a deep-seated anger towards women.

Director Holly Race Roughan keeps the pace up, but the repeated use of a camcorder, though echoing Lynn’s themes of voyeurism and performance, never feels fully integrated. Ultimately, Best Served Cold falls victim to the common problem of writing unsympathetic characters: forgetting that your audience will be trapped with them. It’s tempting to make morally reprehensible characters unlikeable, but Lynn – whose past plays include Lela and Co at the Royal Court, London –has made her Angry Young Man into a bit of a bellend without enough charm to keep you in thrall to him despite his unpalatable views.

Verdict
Unnerving but ultimately frustrating monologue filled with the playwright's palpable and very justified anger
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