Britney in: John

Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017


Anna Ley

at 12:38 on 15th Aug 2017



The Guardian recommended ‘John’ welcomes the bright, bold and beautifully blunt Britney duo back to the Fringe following their 2016 success. This sarcastic series of sketches follows the young girls on their navigation of the American male identity as they search the continent to find and interview as many John Hancocks for their thought-to-be ground-breaking new documentary ‘In search of John Hancock’. Original footage of the pair’s seemingly seminal documentary filming is weaved into this wonderfully witty response to Charley Clive and Ellen Robertson’s own humiliation through a series self-deprecating sketches that is at once comforting as it is side-splittingly funny.

As the pair meander through the memories of their road trip, they muse not only over the more explicit theme of masculinity but crucially contemplate their own identities too. Alongside the metamorphoses of John Hancock’s across the many bus and train journeys the girls embark upon, comes the transformation of two women. Shooting through the stereotypes and stigmas that ensnared them upon their travels, the girls offer a warm and hopeful piece set against the backdrop of a fading belief in their own work, a dwindling American dream opportunism. Conveying the changing colours of confidence and insecurity within a partnership, the audience are soon lead to search for the true Charley Clive and Ellen Robertson, as well as John Hancock.

Its uniquely engrossing transitions from stage to screen may have saved the pair in moments of slow moving dialogue, yet there is no doubt that the beautiful bond of these two quick-witted women spoke for itself. An even greater warmth radiates from the already likable duo due to the added embellishment of cinematic and theatrical elements that capture the cringe-worthy moments of all friendships. Through its intimate stage production and personal accounts, this blossoming bond pulsates from the very core of their comedy and is, what I think, males the play so special. While the stage production was basic, a minimalist set and monochrome costume, it in no way served as a limiting factor. Instead, its simplicity served to emphasise the energising bursts of Britany’s colour as their once dull stage erupts into a spectrum of colour with their presence. The caricatured Charley Clive and sarcastically subtle Ellen Robertson beautifully compliment to present a triumphant tale of the twists and turns of friendship.

In the words of bossy Charley Clive, when advising her fellow film maker (Robertson) how to create a compelling interview, the piece is ‘subtle yet probing’. Searing yet strangely subtle in its comedy, ‘John’ is British sarcasm at its best. Cross the pond with Clive and Robertson and search for John Hancock, you might even find yourself along the way.


Mark Bogod

at 12:44 on 15th Aug 2017



Walking into the Bedlam Theatre, I really had no idea what to expect from this show – neither the title nor the description in the Fringe programme is particularly enlightening. An hour later, I walked out smiling, having found it both funny and touching.

Britney, it turns out, is the name of sketch duo Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson who appeared at the Fringe for the first time last year (in a show originally named, Britney: The Show). Their new show, John, is so called because it recalls a trip the pair undertook after leaving school five years ago to the USA in an attempt to make a documentary film. Their idea at the time was to interview American men called John Hancock (after the founding father of the same name), as a way to explore modern American identity. The pair both mock and fondly remember the journey, slowly drawing the audience in to their personal stories.

This is done through an ingenious combination of sketches, video clips and other media. For instance, a short, visually-aided, introduction to the historic John Hancock was followed by a clever sketch on aspects of what we had been told. For the most part, however, the comedy and nostalgia centred around the relationship between the two friends. This is a relationship that is at once loving and brutal, and is beautifully played out before us by the pair themselves. Charly Clive, in particular, delivered every line with disarming confidence and sharp sense of timing.

If this performance had a fault, it is that some of the comedy writing could do with fine-tuning. Some of the sketches failed to raise the laughs they attempt to, and couple of jokes were overdone. Nevertheless, watching the genuine emotion with which the pair looked back at themselves easily made up for it. Not to be limited, the pair also managed to touch on the political questions their original attempted documentary tried to. The multimedia aspect of the show was incredibly slick and well-integrated with the acting, and the pair had no problems using the large stage to its full potential.

In most aspects, Britney manages to create in ‘John’ a compelling show. This will not be the funniest show you will see at the Fringe, and it manages to be charmingly touching rather than heart-wrenchingly moving. Nevertheless, it is well worth the time to go down the Bedlam and watch this highly original piece of theatre.


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