Like, I suspect, many other members of the audience, I found myself identifying with Better as described in the Fringe guide. To paraphrase, a lost 30-something-year-old chews the fat with her been-there-done-that 50-year-old female friend, both analysing whether the other woman actually has it 'better'. Whilst there may have been elements of that original idea, what actually happened was that after a brief shared introduction, Pauline Eyre and Rebecca How each had their own 15 minute stand-up routine documenting key elements of their lives and the pitfalls of their respective ages. This is not what I had been expecting.
Pauline Eyre and Rebecca How each had their own 15 minute stand-up routine documenting key elements of their lives and the pitfalls of their respective ages
Eyre was the first to fill the spotlight, blasting the audience with frenetic stream of consciousness comedy. Careening from the menopause to to-do lists, Eyre’s content relied on a number of predictable jokes about the gender divide, particularly as applied to her husband, however, she was at her most engaging when detailing a specific instance of feminist victory on the tube. The audience could appreciate that this was a real incident and not just a trope, embellished for effect.
Following this, How took to the stage opening her routine with an insistence on how (not) posh she was. This discussion about class and her derision of the North were not in keeping with the description of Better and, at this point, I had to accept that the two comics were essentially performing their own independent routines with some material wholly unrelated to the premise of the show. How then progressed to self-deprecating jokes and woe-is-me lines about how she could not be a feminist due to her desperation for a boyfriend. For someone who is as obviously bright, sharp and funny as How it seems a waste of her comedic talent to spend her time on stage doing herself down.
There were many laughs in Better, yes, but it felt like the show had been misrepresented. It was a performance of two acts rather than two halves of a shared dialogue, which I feel is to its detriment. In my opinion a longer conversation between Eyre and How would make Better so much better.