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