By Erin Botten
Drenched in 90s/2000s nostalgia, Saving Britney follows the life of superfan Jean as she comes to terms with her family struggles against the backdrop of Britney Spears’ career.
We’re introduced to Jean after being bombarded with Britney’s headlines highlighting her accomplishments and flaws – a recurring theme throughout the production. Jean, dressed in a ‘Leave Britney Alone’ tee, denim shorts and leggings, with her hair scraped back in a scrunchie, is a millennial who can’t quite let go of the past. We meet her in her room, which is littered with bottles and splashes of Brit, with her impressive rack of Britney customs showcased.
Initially, Jean is annoying. As she runs around listing her Britney ‘coincidences’ (like having the same birthday), she comes off as childish despite being a grown woman. I later realised that this was intentional, to give the audience a glimpse into the mind of 8-year old Jean just as her Britney obsession began. Her maturity develops as she grows older.
Saving Britney illustrates fans’ obsession excellently without offending other fandoms. The play is poignant at times, as we see Jean’s family life fall apart, pushing her even further towards Britney. Each heartbreaking anecdote, however, is quickly followed by a sarcastic or comedic remark, reminding audiences of Jean’s millennial, self-deprecating humour.
Her lines, her expression, and her poses are hilarious. Especially when comparing Britney to a god and thus unfuckable – Christina Aguilera on the other hand…
As funny as the play is, it explains why stars become so idolised by fans in ways the audience can relate to. Britney is more than just a god to Jean. She’s a distraction from the struggles at home, a subconscious shield. The star represents feelings that Jean was unable to express, even using her lyrics at therapy and as part of her eulogy. As Jean puts it, “It was like she was releasing these albums when I needed to hear them,” revealing, “We were both so so alone.”
Throughout the play, there are snippets of injustices that occur in Britney’s life which at the time are just dismissed as celeb fodder. But, like many other children thrust into the spotlight, Britney was robbed of her childhood from a young age. The combination of financial hardship and a child with a passion is a dangerous combination that ultimately leads to the creation of a Disney Star. The warning signs were there, as Jean narrated, “Eight years old and already out of breath.”
The heaviness of it all comes to an end in the production’s closing theme, as we see Jean save herself in order to save Britney. After channeling her pain into her idol for so many years, Jean breaks, just like Britney.
With an array of four-star reviews, there are very few ways Saving Britney could get any better. Shereen Roushbaiani’s (Jean) solo performance compliments the script and performative style of Saving Britney. If there were any more actors, the play would become too busy. This is about one person’s experience and perception of the movement, no one else’s.
If you’re not interested in celebrity culture or 90s references, this play might not be for you. The majority of the audience were clearly Britney fans, reminiscing about Britney’s accomplishments alongside Jean. But if you want a nostalgic look back to your childhood, this is definitely the play for you.
Overall, it provides for a good night of entertainment. It’s effectively a stand-up within the Britney universe – you can’t really ask for more on a Friday night. My one warning… you’ll absolutely want to listen to Brit afterwards.
Saving Britney has finished its sold-out run at Hope Mill Theatre, which was followed by a single night in Winchester. You can catch the play over two days (25th/26th) in Cardiff later this month – the final stop of its UK tour, before it transfers to Broadway (SoHo Playhouse) in July.
Powered By Spotlight Studios
0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR