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.