Britney in: John
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 13th Aug 2017
  • |
  • ★★★★

In 2011, Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson were women without a mission. Just out of school with no definite plans for university and holding down a couple of dead-end (and in one case, truly bizarre) gap year jobs, they needed focus for their creative energies. With none in immediate sight, they decided to create one; to make the world’s greatest travel documentary, a search for the soul of America through the man whose oafishly-large signature dominates its constitution – the titular John, John Hancock.

What’s truly lovely about this show is that as wry, self-deprecating and bizarre as the comedy may be, at its heart it feels truly sincere

Their plan was simple; fly to the west coast of the US then travel across the country by Greyhound bus interviewing American men bearing the name John Hancock. Fortunately for us, all the footage survived and is here to see, six years later, in all of its awkward, naive glory.

It would be very easy for this to have been another ‘Oooh-cringe-how-geeky-were-WE?’ retrospective and, admittedly, this forms the backbone of the show. What lifts it is that Britney skillfully interweaves the footage with surreal, sometimes surprisingly dark, micro-sketches. These are always well-characterised (Never stand in line!), sharply scripted (Flirty serial killer) and often insightful beyond the performers’ years (Divorcee holiday). All of this is wrapped up by wonderful video moments like an incredibly arty montage of the wrong graveyard or the girls’ incongruously flirty interview with a slightly creepy teenage hunter. There are a couple of jokes which rob the show of its pace but, generally, what happens on stage is slick, unexpected and laugh-out-loud funny.

What’s truly lovely about this show is that as wry, self-deprecating and bizarre as the comedy may be, at its heart it feels truly sincere – a celebration of lasting friendship. Embarrassing though the documentary is, it’s obvious that neither Clive or Robertson would have missed creating it for the world. That it manages this sincerity without once feeling sappy is testament to the skill of both performers and a seal of quality on this show.  

Reviews by Tom King

Underbelly, Cowgate

Lucy Farrett: Lois

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

She Sells Sea Shells

★★★★
Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Embarking on the adventure of a lifetime across a country full of gun-toting, god-fearing, headline-grabbing maniacs, two teenagers go in search of the typical American man: in search of John Hancock. From the team behind Britney, John is a funny, nostalgic and irreverent onstage road trip across the USA; an endeavour to expose some of the lazy stereotyping that happens when we Brits think of our neighbours across the pond. 'Reminded me of a modern-day French and Saunders' (AYoungerTheatre.com). ***** (TheatreWeekly.com, EdinBraw.com). **** (EdFringeReview.com, BroadwayBaby.com, FringeBiscuit.co.uk).

Most Popular See More

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Heathers The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets