After being well received last year and following their recent Whatsonstage award nomination for Best off-West End production, Saving Britney is back in London for three nights only.
Premiering at the Old Red Lion last year, the show has gone from strength to strength, touring around the UK and now having one more stop in London before crossing the pond for a run in New York in July. Having not been on my radar last time it was in London, I couldn't miss the chance to catch it this time around, but as a lifelong Britney fan (Yes, I will hide song titles in this review. Please don't hold it against me) could it be as good as I was anticipating?
Saving Britney tells the story of a Britney Spears superfan called Jean, whose life seems to be intrinsically linked with her superstar idol thanks to a vast number of coincidences starting from the fact they share the same birthday (though 8 years apart). Throughout the snappy 70 minutes, we watch Jean as she takes us through Britney's career album by album and relates it to events in her own life at the time.
This is a show full of nostalgia, particularly if you did grow up around the same time. As Jean tells the story of where she was and how she bought '...Baby One More Time', I could instantly recall my own story regarding that iconic album (even if criminally the UK album cover wasn't the one on stage - though the US one is better so that can be forgiven). The stage is littered with Britney costumes and several props that come into play throughout the piece (including a hilarious use of a toy snake) and a board full of posters that looked scarily like my childhood bedroom.
Jean is played by Shereen Roushbaiani, the sole performer in this piece, who only leaves the stage to wander around the audience, occasionally throwing things at them. A joy to watch, Shereen is captivating as she portrays Jean as an excitable 8 year old to a calmer adult. Whether she is dancing around the stage, singing in various degrees of tunefulness or narrating us through the fictional characters life, she ensures that it never gets boring thanks to an abundance of versatility in her performance.
Written and directed by David Shopland, Saving Britney boasts clever writing - at times hilarious, with depth hidden in there to reveal some more surprising moments as reality creeps in to overshadow the exuberance and naivety of youth. If you think this is going to be nothing more than a fluffy story about a fan of Britney, it's not that innocent - especially as the action delves into the recent #FreeBritney movement that has thankfully had a happy ending.
Produced by Fake Escape, the themes that are explored in Saving Britney include sexuality, celebrity obsession, growing up and your own self discovery. While darker moments in Britney's life are touched upon but not in detail (we are thankfully spared reliving her toxic ex-husbands) there is enough substance in here to resonate with the audience in a way that you might not necessarily expect.
For somebody who has been through so much throughout her life and been the butt of peoples jokes due to her own health since 2007, Saving Britney is a beautiful tribute to not just Britney herself, but also how much good can come from idolising a celebrity, and the importance of finding yourself as you grow into an adult. The key theme of how your favourite singer can soundtrack your life in more ways than just the music is explored organically to fantastic success. Well written, incredibly performed and a whole lot of fun, if Saving Britney was a hit last time it was in London, I think they've done it again as it's a hit... one more time.
You can catch Saving Britney at The Other Palace on April 22nd and 23rd. It will then head to SoHo Playhouse in New York from July 5th - 30th. For tickets, head to https://www.savingbritney.com/tour