Edinburgh Review: Britney in: John

Edinburgh Review: Britney in: John

It’s a road trip for Ellen Robertson and Charly Clive as they take to North America after school in the pursuit of John Hancock. He seems like as good a subject as any for their award-winning documentary film, footage that they show throughout Britney in: John. In truth, the footage is not going to win any prizes or an audience with David Attenborough any time soon. But Robertson and Clive know that – it’s a point of comedic value throughout the show. Ultimately, they went travelling with focus, an aim to interview men named John Hancock (after the founding father) and see whether the result paints a picture of the American societal norm. Britney in: John does not provide an exposé on the American archetypal identity, but it does provide for an amusing theatrical production.

Donned in matching, sleeveless T-shirts that announce their search for men named John Hancock, the girls take to the streets of America. They intersperse the story with comedy sketches and live commentary, the latter of which is funnier and more impactful than the former. It feels like it’s been thrown together as a last minute lacklustre attempt, but Clive and Robertson are in tune with their material and bounce off each other flexibly & organically. There is a quick PowerPoint about America to introduce Robertson to the culture, a subject on which teacher Clive also knows very little about. It’s a bit simple but it gets laughs – it’s honest and down to earth, just like the performers themselves.

The lack of preparation extends into the trip itself – interviews are conducted with very little consideration with what the two will actually ask the Hancock’s when they finally meet them. There is even a day-long trip to a graveyard in search of the famous John’s grave. They find it eventually, but of course it’s the wrong John Hancock. The comedians throw together ideas haphazardly, but ultimately with the right intentions. It pays off for some head in hands hilarious moments and some flickering but amusing film footage. There’s a sense of light-hearted energy about the show, the audience laughing along to convoluted questions that bamboozle the interviewees and leave them as lost as everyone in this production seems to be.

Britney in: John feels slapdash – that’s exactly the point. It highlights the naivety of youth, thinking that winging it will produce glorious results. The film is never finished, the performers drifting about the stage and the story, but it’s all with good intentions and humour. Robertson and Clive laugh at each other as much as at the ludicracy of the idea. It personifies teenage, youthful optimism and provides for some great adventures that fit perfectly into a pleasant comedy show at the fringe.


Britney in: John plays Underbelly Cowgate as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 28 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.

Follow the link for an interview with creators Ellen Robertson and Charly Clive.