Co-devised by David Shopland and Shereen Roushbaiani, one woman show Saving Britney was meant to premiere at the Old Red Lion in January, but due to restrictions has been postponed until the early summer.
Saving Britney: Prologue is an exclusive online performance created by Shopland and Roushbaiani as an appetiser for the live action main course as soon as it’s safe to serve up.
Saving Britney: Prologue is a pre-recorded digital production made as a companion piece to ‘Saving Britney’ premiering live at the Old Red Lion Theatre later this year. Tickets available via Old Red Lion Box Office.
Saving Britney: Prologue is an online companion piece to Saving Britney, what can you tell us about the two productions?
David: In essence Saving Britney: Prologue is an introduction to Jean; the sole character in Saving Britney. Whilst the full play centres on the character of Jean and how her life intertwined with her idol, Prologue delves deeper into the current unfolding issues surrounding Spears and her conservatorship. We are wholly committed to bringing Saving Britney to the Old Red Lion as soon as it safe, so we hope Prologue whets audiences’ appetites not just for the unbelievable story of the #FreeBritney movement but for what else Jean has to say about her own life, growing up in the late 90s and how Britney Spears’ music saved her.
Shereen: Saving Britney is a piece following the life of Jean who is a Britney Spears superfan – we follow Jean’s journey as it intertwines with Britney’s and captures what it was like growing up in the 90s and 00s – being female – what it meant to be famous – AMAZING throwbacks and how Jean dealt with ADHD diagnosis and sexuality in that time period – Saving Britney Prologue is a fun piece that uncovers the conversation concerning Britney’s hidden messages in her songs – looking into some not so well known lyrics and trivia – hosted as a Facebook live …. Jean makes it fun, thoughtful and leaves you literally ‘wanting more!’
What inspired you to write Saving Britney?
David: I have known Shereen for over a decade and we have wanted to do a project together for some time. Shereen is a phenomenally honest, funny, and engaging performer so creating a one woman show as a vehicle for her has been something I have been passionate about for a long time. Last summer I became increasingly aware of the #FreeBritney movement and I was instantly inspired by the subject matter; not only the implausible legal loopholes that have allegedly kept the popstar a prisoner since 2008 but also the psychological factors of relationships between celebrity and fan, and how symbiotic and reciprocal these connections can be – despite being essentially between strangers. As I move into my mid 30s, I have also wanted to write a piece that reflects on my generation’s experiences growing up in the late 90s and early 00s. There is a lot of humour in much of the nostalgia in both pieces that I think will resonate with much of the audience.
Shereen: I have always been a fan of all things 90s/00s – I don’t think I know any other genre of music! I had a flip phone for as long as I could before surrendering to the technology world! For me personally growing up in that time period where there was so much pressure on females looking and acting a certain way – especially the acting and music industry at that time and still today – I wanted to tell a story that would engage with an audience on a personal level and a more excessive level when looking at how ‘Britney Spears’ was formed, controlled and manufactured. Also ANY excuse to talk about WKD and Apple Sourz ! Booze Bangers!
Why have you decided to create this online prologue?
David: Like many theatre companies and venues, the current global situation has been very difficult to navigate for us. Originally Saving Britney was due to open at the Old Red Lion in January, but then the Tier 3 announcement before Christmas obviously meant we had to postpone. The Old Red Lion have been hugely supportive and passionate about the show, and approached us about creating an online version of Saving Britney at the start of 2021. I instantly saw the benefits of creating an online piece to explore other parts of the character, build an international audience for Saving Britney and harness the public’s desire for theatrical entertainment whilst our theatres remain closed. However, I was also conscious of ‘saving’ Saving Britney (pardon the pun!) for when we could present it in person to a live audience – so the idea of creating a distinct but related online companion piece was born.
Shereen: The amazing Old Red Lion were so interested in Saving Britney but we felt that streaming the online performance wouldn’t capture the essence of the piece – so we thought – why not write a prologue … that way as an audience you are already engaged with all things Britney and the character of Jean! In all honesty I think it’s worked out for the best ahead of the reopening of theatres after the pandemic! More Britney, more 90s/00s, more Jean!
How do you think the prologue will whet audiences’ appetites for the live show?
David: I hope that we leave enough of Jean’s character and her history ambiguous so that it inspires viewers to learn more about her and her personal relationship with Britney. Prologue is unique in that it’s set after the events of the full play, but audiences will be introduced to it first, which I’m hoping means there will be a desire to find out how Jean got to where she is now.
Shereen: Audiences will begin to understand Jean and her quirky vibes! Most people have watched the New York Times Britney documentary now so are very aware of what is happening and are starting to question the conservatorship even further. I think the prologue will hit home to many people, with a great range of Britney songs, lyrics and an introduction to this important discussion. Audiences are going to hopefully be running to the theatres after lockdown and I think this is the perfect aperitif to Saving Britney! Think of it like a ‘Lunchable’ pack – building the tower cracker sandwich ready to stuff in your mouth!
What’s been the biggest challenge for you in getting Saving Britney and Saving Britney: Prologue staged?
David: I think from a purely logistical point of view, the pandemic has understandably meant we’ve had to be incredibly flexible and malleable with our timetable. From a creative point of view, it’s been challenging creating a show with its own narrative arc and character progression without giving anything away about Jean’s journey in Saving Britney. Ultimately these challenges have pushed us in a really fun and creative way, and we believe they’ve just ensured both shows are as robust as they possibly can be.
Shereen: Obviously – COVID_19! We were disappointed (like the rest of the industry) when January lockdown was announced, but everything happens for a reason and I think any coverage of how the Conservatorship is affecting Britney’s life is important. Finding 90s/00s props was a bit tricky too! We sat through many Ebay auctions for the most obscure items like a Boombox and those weird troll dolls! We have loved every step of the process, and are so excited to show you what we have managed to create during one of the toughest times for theatres and the arts.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to watch Saving Britney: Prologue?
David: It’s a funny, nostalgic look at our obsession with celebrity, whilst engaging with important issues such as cyberbullying, women’s safety and misogyny in the entertainment industry. It will also hopefully add a new perspective on the #FreeBritney movement – not to mention introduce people to some Britney Spears album track bangers!
Shereen: Book it! Prices start at a fiver and it’s 40 mins of fun with Jean! If you are interested in the #FreeBritney movement, or Britney Spears in general, then this is a show for you! The Prologue opens up questions that haven’t been touched upon in the media and may open your eyes up to some more issues surrounding the Conservatorship. Jean is a 90s/00s LOVER so anyone missing their old school toys and music – get BOOKING! As a performer I can’t be more thankful to have such an incredibly well written and thought out character to play – Jean is a dream to perform!
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