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Best of Three at The Etcetera Theatre | Review

The tables are turned on gender stereotypes in this play, with Zack (Saul Barrett) plainly announcing to Jean (Maisie Norma Seaton), whom he has only just met, that he has been suffering from depression. Jean, in a later scene, is clearly distressed having been triggered by a past negative experience, the details of which she won’t talk about, and we don’t know why she won’t talk about it, because she won’t talk about that either. Thus, a supposed alpha male is openly expressing his mental health challenges, and a woman is reticent to talk about whatever it is that’s really on her mind.

Best of Three
Best of Three

Jean’s boyfriend Bo (Esmonde Cole) meets with Ted just prior to a high school reunion: some of their behaviour constitutes a regression back to their schooldays. But surely, they know better now, years later? Their recollections of what happened back then result in nostalgic laughter, eventually leaving Jean left behind, as the third person in a two-way conversation, as the boys speak with acronyms and colloquialisms impenetrable to anyone outside their friendship circle. I had no idea what they were going on about either, and with Jean’s repeated attempts to get clarification going unheeded, it was difficult to maintain interest, to say the least.

If that wasn’t enough, there are references to a boring existence in suburbia, in an (as far as I could tell) unspecified American city that isn’t New York – Jean escaped the Big Apple to deliberately live somewhere markedly different. A lot of issues arise out of a school reunion, and Bo and Ted (or is it Ted and Bo?) literally and figuratively bounce around with energy and vigour. Perhaps inevitably, both talk and action are largely about sex, one way or another. Bo and Ted (let’s stick with alphabetical order) at some point become Tyler and Zack, the latter demanding Jean cut his manhood off. Whether he’s stoned or in need of psychiatric treatment, or both, isn’t clear.

The scene with Tyler and Zack does, however, give some context to Jean’s lived experience, but this is followed by a long, baffling muddle of various voices, miscellaneous guests at the school reunion, who seem to have largely regained their catty playground banter – or whatever the American equivalent is for ‘banter’ – if indeed they ever lost it. The only thing on stage to look at while random snippets of conversations are being broadcast is – wait for it – Jean cleaning a loo. There might be a metaphor in there somewhere about flushing away the bad memories of the past and moving onwards and upwards: her very final line in the play suggests she is ready to live her life.

But so much in this production is open to interpretation, and if there is a takeaway message, I would love to know what on earth it is. The cast do a good job in bringing their characters to life with captivating performances, but like someone running a long-distance race who starts too quickly and runs out of steam before the end, the script starts off brilliantly but then tapers off before limping past the finish line.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

“Best of Three” by Nurit Chinn is a dark and funny world premiere about our compulsion to relive a past that haunts us.

On the eve of their 10th high school reunion, two estranged friends, Bo and Ted, reconnect at a bar night. But with the presence of Bo’s new girlfriend, the night soon devolves into a violent bacchanal of psychosexual gamesmanship.

The play explores survivors’ reflex to reenact the circumstances of their trauma. With jaw-dropping theatrical twists and turns, provocative characters, and an ending likely to be remembered by audience members for a long time, this show from two internationally produced artists is not to miss. Think: “Promising Young Woman” meets “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”.

And in a supposedly post-#MeToo era, “Best of Three” feels urgent: a dissection of imperfect victimhood and imperfect recovery.

Tuesday, 1 August 2023
21:00 22:00
The Etcetera Theatre
265 Camden High StreetLondon, England, NW1 7BU

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