Get our free email newsletter with just one click

A New and Better You review at the Yard, London – ‘unflinching and electrifying’

Saffron Coomber and Alex Austin in A New and Better You at the Yard Theatre, London. Photo: Helen Murray
by -

It’s been a blistering couple of years for the Yard. Jay Miller’s Hackney Wick venue has become one of London’s most exciting theatres with a series of electrifying shows – Big Guns, This Beautiful Future, Buggy Baby, and more.

Its latest production – Cheryl Gallacher’s staging of Joe Harbot’s A New And Better You – is similarly exciting.

Part motivational TED talk, part healthy living vlog, and all squeamishly satirical, Harbot’s loosely structured, stylistically fluid play follows a nameless protagonist (Hannah Traylen) on a journey from zero to hero. From nobody to somebody. From sofa-bound slob to social media icon.

She’s chivvied along the way by two relentlessly smiling, jargon-spouting gurus (Saffron Coomber and Alex Austin, both wonderfully creepy), who are variously personal trainers, brand advisors, and publishing agents. They cruelly criticise her body. They redress her. They make her do spotty dogs. They make her the best version of herself.

The whole thing is an examination of the dark side of self-improvement, of our insatiable desire to be smarter, sexier, and more popular. Like an episode of Black Mirror, Traylen’s obsession with improving spirals dizzyingly faster and faster, and it’s only in the final moments when the vacuous veneer slips, and the desolation underneath appears.

It’s staged with typical stylishness by Gallacher on Bethany Wells’ set – a diamond of sand, with microphones and emoji projections. It’s all so relatable, so harshly and humorously unflinching. And it’s exactly the sort of thing the Yard does so well now.

This Beautiful Future review at the Yard Theatre, London – ‘daringly unconventional’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Stylish production of Joe Harbot’s unflinching,squeamishly satirical play