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A queer exploration of new age romance: ‘Best of Five’ Review

Watching ‘Best of Five’ felt like I was watching a combination of mine and my friends’ university experience playing out in front of me. We are given the protagonist Pip, a nineteen year old university student struggling to comprehend the complexities of his new emotions whilst dealing with those of the past. A queer exploration of new age romance in the era of dating apps, situationships and hookup culture, I felt ‘Best of Five’ put on a theatrical show that was essentially what you see and hear day to day as a young adult trying to navigate relationships and feelings in the 21st century. 

The set opened with a park bench downstage left, soft coloured lighting and streamers strung from the ceiling. The set was fairly minimal with a few items that were moved on and off stage, like blankets and tables, to indicate the changes of scenery. The space was utilised well, and a lot of the time actors would walk within the audience and along the upper side of the auditorium, with the lighting trailing their movement maintaining audience focus. This made the play feel dynamic and more natural, the playing with movement paying off well.

Some of the most dynamic scenes were when we were suddenly thrust into uni nightlife culture, the feelings of a night I’m sure i’ve lived a million times before immediately resurfacing; pounding music, sloppy drunks and people everywhere that you half know, or really don’t want to see. We see Pip struggle between several different people and situations, explaining it well himself in an earlier scene that he finds it difficult to read people and what they want from him. Thus we see him mess up time and time again in the search to find something that sticks. From someone he met on an app, to your average laddish fuck boy who is incredibly emotionally unavailble, to a guy he picks up in a club, and finally a musician he follows on instagram – met through a mutual friend. 

On the back of this we see the lighting and tech really shine in this piece, clearly having lots of thought having gone into its construction. We get loud sound effects of water being poured, people using the toilets and the turning on and off of lights, to name a few. These all worked succinctly with the lighting choices, using colours (particularly blue and red) to create different ambiances and settings depending on the scene and its set location.

The play emphasises the desperation that love can cause, especially for young adults trying to find what they see to be the “missing piece” that is love in their lives. Pip exemplifies the toxic attachment of being in a situationship and being desperate for love at any cost. He waits around all day, dressed and ready to go, moaning to his friends about this boy only to abandon all grievances for a text that comes too last minute to be acceptable. Proving that it often feels like to have something, even at the cost of one’s dignity, is better than having nothing at all. 

The idea of having Pip split into two actors, one as a current 19 year old Pip and the second as a younger 17 year old Pip, was effective. It took me a second to realise what was going on at first, but once I did I could appreciate the emotional depth this added to his characterisation. By allowing us as the audience to understand his past we could better understand the trajectory of the narrative. It worked well particularly in the final scene where Pip’s younger self hugs him tightly before exiting and leaving the older Pip to his final monologue. We see him comfort his younger self, telling him to enjoy the love he has while it’s happening rather than focussing on the idea of its future loss. He promises that there will be more love and greatness in his life to come, and I think we can all be comforted by that conclusion. The final line rang true, especially to me, that instead of stressing about how we we feel in the future and the type of love or relationships that we may or may not have, we should focus on the now, as Pip says: “Because I’m only 19 and how could you possibly know the grievances of an old man.”

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