★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Razor-sharp wit and humour delivered with real heart and flawless accents.
Sketch shows may not be television's cup of tea at the moment, but on the live circuit acts like Birthday Girls, Giants and Britney are proving that audiences still love them and that there's a large pool of young comedians ready-and-waiting to deliver broadcasters great sketch shows when they eventually start wanting them again.
As someone who loves, admires and soaks up as much live comedy as I can, I’m ashamed to say that it took Charly Clive to appear in Channel 4’s excellent series Pure for me to become aware of Britney.
The comedy duo are made up of Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson, best friends since the age of 14, who shortly after graduating (Charly from drama school in New York and Ellen from Cambridge) had their friendship tested when Charly was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Diagnosed in 2016, Charly named the tumour Britney, after Britney Spears' infamous breakdown in 2007, and after receiving the all-clear, the two friends formed a comedy partnership and created a comedy show all about their experiences.
They then very quickly took it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now three years later, thanks to the success of Pure, Charly and Ellen have brought the show back for audiences at London's Soho Theatre to enjoy.
But how do you enjoy a show about a brain tumour? Well, on paper this shouldn't really be a laugh-out-loud show, but it absolutely is. And that's all thanks to Charly and Ellen's natural ability to find the funny in any situation. Not once did I feel awkward or uncomfortable.
Their debut offering is full of razor-sharp wit and humour delivered with real heart and flawless accents. But laughter wasn't the only emotion I felt across the hour, I also felt admiration, adoration, empathy and sadness as I left the theatre wiping tears from my eyes.
As much as Britney is about Charly's tumour, it's a universal story of friendship. They do say that it's during your toughest times that you learn who your true friends are and never has that been more evident than during this show.
Throughout the hour, Charly and Ellen mix storytelling with sketches as they slip in and out of being themselves to play family members, the tumour itself, the doctors and nurses involved and a host of other characters who were never present, including a rip-roaringly funny sketch in which Charly pulls off the best Harry Potter impression I've ever seen and Ellen as Hagrid delivers one of the evening's cleverest lines.
Oddly intimate, Britney felt more like I was looking through a window into Charly and Ellen's friendship than I was sat in the audience for a comedy show. Their life-affirming friendship is one built on loyalty, strength and kindness and I defy anyone to not leave wanting them to also be their friends.
Not wishing to give away how the show ends, let's just say that retelling a tale from 2016 in 2019, on this occasion, proved to absolutely be the right thing to do. A word of warning though, you will need to bring some tissues with you and you must be prepared to offer them the standing ovation they deserve at the end.
Now if they could just bring back their 2017 show John which was about a journey they made across the United States in 2011, then that would be great. As would a brand new show of course because this simply can't be the final time these two share a stage.
Britney runs until Saturday 27th April at 9:15pm at Soho Theatre. Last few tickets available here.
(This review was based on the performance from Thursday 25th April 2019)