Be Better

‘This is the gospel of the modern age’ announces Elena, the exultant girl goddess. ‘I am pregnant with myself’ declares Saskia, acolyte of the me-me-me generation. Are you ready to #bebetter? You better be if you go to see The Urban Foxes Collective’s captivating new piece of devised theatre. Be Better combines poetry, mixed media, dance, and powerful characterisation to reflect on the culture and psychology of self-worth. The music is 90s pop and it’s the time for girl power. Elena Voce and Saskia Marland project a world where meaning lies within and refusing to share every aspect of your life on social media is deemed selfish.

It manages to embody a modern malaise in new and thought-provoking ways, and their reference to topical issues goes beneath the superficial.

The two performers start in long white nighties. They stare at the audience sensuously while removing their dental retainers. They then start spouting self-love mumbo-jumbo, and the atmosphere conjured is somewhere between that of a sleepover and a cult initiation. Elena pouts – serious, seductive, intimidating. Saskia is smiling, goofy, sweet. As the drama develops, the power dynamic becomes clear – Elena is the ring-leader and Saskia the adoring follower.

Both deliver striking performances. I felt entranced by Elena’s magnetic eyes and moved by Saskia’s transformation from drippy to indoctrinated. The use of audience interaction adds to the drama, as Elena invites members to read out statements written on paper. At the beginning, these are like positive messages from a supportive online community, but by the end they turn nasty, and contribute to Elena’s emotional manipulation of Saskia. Gyrating dance routines and aerobic movement are likewise effective, and what with the wind-fans blowing at their hair, it’s like watching a music video. Perhaps the strongest parts of Be Better are the eerie moments of comedy. This show is very funny, although the jokes are usually at someone’s expense – either ours or Saskia’s. The writing is likewise uncanny, with images of gestation turned inwards. The script is dominated with the language of the female anatomy.

By the end, though, the drama spirals somewhat and the ending is a little inconclusive. It feels like the company have had a fantastic idea, but weren't too sure about how to finish it. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive piece of theatre and producer Sara Sassanelli should be very proud. This show really manages to embody a modern malaise in new and thought-provoking ways, and their reference to topical issues goes beneath the superficial.

Reviews by Kate Wilkinson

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The Blurb

This is a show about being the best you can be. Hopefully. A collage of honest storytelling, movement and music that reaches to the edge of the 90s babe stratosphere. Join Saskia and Elena at the altar of the self, they will take you into the girl/woman’s bedroom exploring the cult of today. Be Better is a show, a service, an exploration of a generation that isn’t lost but might as well be! Caustic, funny and full of pathos, Be Better presents a fantastical critique of self-worth. You should come, because you are worth it.

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