If you were to be told you were going to see a comedy, this is the last subject you would think of – brain tumours. The topic of illnesses, particularly cancer, is a sore and sensitive subject, simply because of the common reality of its harshness. But Ellen Robertson and Charlie Clive, the creators and actors in Britney, expose their experience of having a brain tumour through, believe it or not, the art of comedy sketches.
The Vaults, just behind Waterloo Station in central London, is a brilliant setting for this piece. Walking down the back streets behind Waterloo, with the walls newly drenched in graffiti, really sets the scene for this grungy, stylish venue. The Vaults festival looks as though it is offering a strong fringe platform for shows like Britney. As soon as we got into the room, I was immediately taken back to thoughts reminiscent of the Edinburgh Fringe last year. A stage with minimal set, lighting, and props, that wants us to purely focus on the actors and the performance being told. It was completely appropriate for the level of audience engagement the show required; and the two girls bounced off every reaction with complete ease.
The fluidity throughout Britney was extremely refreshing. There were extremely clever moments where jokes would be repeated throughout different scenes. Director Emily Burns has a clearly sharp mind to help shape Robertson and Clive, in a way that is both visually and intellectually hilarious. The sketches are cleverly and unapologetically stitched together in a way that the audience could never really tell what was going to happen; yet could still follow what was going on.
The pair reminded me of a modern-day French and Saunders – the chemistry between the two is almost impossible to recreate without an underlying friendship that is clearly very strong. And this is what makes them so enjoyable to watch. They seemed very much like two girls I would want to be around all the time and just laugh at their jokes.
What appears externally to sound like a very risky idea, is carried out with incredible levels of wit and genius. Both Robertson and Clive capture the stage and complement each other greatly in this dynamic duo.
Britney played at the Vaults till 29 January. For more information on the company, see here.