Tag Archives: Alex Austin

A New and Better You – 4 Stars


A New and Better You

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 29th June 2018


“Harbot’s script has some beautiful language and is rather poetic in parts”


A New and Better You, written by Joe Harbot and directed by Cheryl Gallacher, tells the story of an unnamed protagonist (played by Hannah Traylen) as she transforms from an unmotivated loser to a superstar wellness influencer. It’s a biting critique of the online self-help movement and the soulless consumerism at the heart of it.

The protagonist’s “upgrade” is overseen by two–also unnamed–characters, who seem like a mix of motivational speakers and PR consultants. They are played by the excellent Saffron Coomber and Alex Austin. Their creepy smiles and upbeat attitudes are enough to set your teeth on edge. The acting overall is superb, in particular from Traylen who is able to move from depressed to ecstatic seamlessly and is able to subtly show the cracks starting to appear in the star’s supposedly “new and improved” self.

Harbot’s script has some beautiful language and is rather poetic in parts. One long monologue where the protagonist lists, and apologises, for all of her flaws, is especially moving. However, the frequency of these long, abstract monologues becomes a bit repetitive, and while these speeches about how to improve oneself do reflect the themes of the play I couldn’t help but wish for a bit more dialogue and action. While the script certainly proves its point about the absurdity and shallowness of the self-improvement world, the play feels like it is lacking in structure.

The design is sublime. Bethany Wells has created a surrealist masterpiece with a diamond shape sandpit at the centre of the stage and a gold diamond stuck to the brick wall at the back of the theatre. The projections of motivational quotes and emojis are funny, stylish and add to the overall nightmarish feeling, without ever being intrusive. The stylish design and projections are further complimented by the excellent design and sound/composition. Jess Bernberg’s lighting design is original and mesmerising, in particular in the final climactic scene where we are made to feel as though we are in a desert; the lights perfectly mimic the sun, swirling sand and hot, blurry air. Josh Anio Grigg’s sound, like the projections, never feels invasive but rather like another layer of this creepy, false world of gym exercises and product endorsements.

Overall, A New and Better You is slick, stylish, and a haunting look at the ends some people will go to to improve themselves. Well worth a watch.

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Helen Murray


A New and Better You

The Yard Theatre until  14th July


Previously reviewed at this venue
Buggy Baby | ★★★★ | March 2018
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | May 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com



Review of Thebes Land – 5 Stars


Thebes Land

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 11th September 2017





“The ease and skill with which Alex Austin characterises and physicalises his roles is a truly stunning “



Finally getting tickets for Thebes Land, after frustratingly missing it’s run at the Arcola earlier this year, my expectations were incredibly high; I am overjoyed to tell you that the production certainly did not disappoint. Hearing rumours of a man imprisoned for patricide appearing live on-stage to perform his story in a 3 metre high cage seemed a fascinating, if slightly unusual, method of storytelling, but the minutiae of the production went much further than a back-page scandal ‘Making A Murderer’ documentary piece, deconstructing and analysing the layers of theatre and mythology surrounding the issues of on-stage representation.

Thebes thespyinthestalls.com

Thebes Land follows the development of a relationship between Martin Santos, a young man imprisoned for killing his father, and ’T’, a writer and actor creating a theatre piece around Martin’s story. Staged as a re-enactment of a series of interviews between ’T’ and Martin, taking place on a prison basketball court, we follow the creation of a play, ‘Thebes Land’, through which method we increasingly learn about the characters, and their relationship to the outside world. Myth, reality and meta theatrical commentary become a seductive and inseparable conglomerate, blurring the line between the real and the fictional, instead emphasising, above all, the human.

Thebes thespyinthestalls.com

The set is simple, but incredibly effective. At the centre of the space stands a 3 metre high cage, fitted with the necessary security cameras and basketball hoop. This space not only naturalistically echoes the location of the meetings between Martin and ’T’, the prison basketball court, but forces us to witness a life in isolation and seclusion, with the spatial and emotional relationship between the characters playing out behind, through and outside of the caged bars. The four cameras lining the space play live on four screens at the top of the theatre, emphasising the act of spectatorship similar to both theatre and prisons, and adding a filmic layer to the characters’ transactions.

Thebes thespyinthestalls.com

The performances are absolutely superb, and thoroughly convincing. A two-hander that managers to hold the audience in the palm of their hand for the entire run time, the beauty of this piece comes in the creation of connection between the two actors, leaving the audience doubtless that this is not ‘acting’ in the genteel sense of the word, but that we are witnessing an authentic truth of what it means to be a human. The ease and skill with which Alex Austin characterises and physicalises his roles is a truly stunning feat and the kind confidence of Trevor White is magnetic to watch.

Thebes thespyinthestalls.com

Thebes Land is genuinely one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year, and I thoroughly recommend buying a ticket, if you can possibly get your hands on one! Not only is it storytelling at its best, but it is a piece with exponential room for analysis, with layers of understanding and complexity that lends itself to contemplation and deconstruction. A think piece at its core, Thebes Land holds up to the light the most primal instinct of all humanity, the instinct to survive and defend one’s self. With an effervescent mix of comedy and dramatic tension, this unmissable piece brings forth questions of family, friendship, connection and fate.


Reviewed by Tasmine Airey

Photography by Alex Brenner




is at The Arcola Theatre until 7th October  

part of CASA Latin American Theatre Festival



Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com