I saw ‘Britney’ last night. This two hander, narrative sketch comedy tells the true story of performer/writer Charly Clive’s diagnoses with a brain tumour and subsequent journey to recovery with the help of her real life best friend and co-creator/performer Ellen Robertson. The show is called Britney because that was the name given, by due democratic process to Charly’s brain tumour.
The evident chemistry between the pair is one of the strongest elements of the show. Telling the story of a powerful shared experience and taking advantage of every opportunity to make us and each other laugh along the way. Some people seem to think this is a counter-intuitive subject for a comedy but comedy and suffering are inextricably linked. I suppose it’s when we’re suffering that we most yearn to be cheered up and maybe even to laugh.
By her own account Ellen spent a lot of time trying to make Charlie laugh whilst Charlie dealt with her diagnoses and treatment period. She even quit her job and moved in with Charlie’s family. It is these moments which give the show it’s power. The story can be very moving in the places where they drop the comedy and simply tell the story and these moments are done sparingly.
At other times it is genuinely hilarious. There are some fantastic gags and some excellent characterisation and in terms of performance the pair compliment eachother nicely. Ellen sells her deadpan punchlines emphatically while Charlys’ characterisation is frequently delightful, particular highlights included the cocksure anaesthetist and her grandma’s elderly dying friend.
The humour is largely rooted in the sketches which are often somewhat tangential to the story. In some places this is very effective (the welsh townspeople are wonderfully abstract yet turn out to be very relevant) in other places I found the deviation from the story detracted from the narrative momentum, at the start of the piece for example one sketch was redone in three different styles which felt to me more like it was designed to showcase their performing abilities rather than advance the plot.
With that said I did enjoy myself and would recommend it. They are light and engaging to watch, it’s a very brave and personal thing to make a show about and they’ve clearly got a lot of talent for creating characters and writing gags. I look forward to seeing what they do next.
★★★ (and a half)