A few months ago, Britney Spears superfan Jean was ready to tell the world her story Saving Britney, live from The Old Red Lion Theatre in the heart of Islington… until the government placed the country in lockdown. Jean has agreed to host a very special and exclusive Facebook Live session only available digitally via The Old Red Lion Theatre website. Join her as she attempts to make sense of the pop princess in the age of conservatorship, cyberbullying and the #MeToo movement in the pre-show Saving Britney: Prologue in advance of the live show co-devised by David Shopland and Shereen Roushbaiani. We caught up with David and Shereen to shed some further light on this exciting new play.
Please follow the link for Saving Britney: Prologue tickets https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/saving-britney-prologue.html
Where did the idea for Saving Britney come from?
David: I think I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of celebrity and how when one becomes successful there’s an expectation that they give their life over to the public. Tracing back the current conservatorship controversy there’s evidence that manufactured stars like Britney Spears have been controlled and turned into products from a very early age, which can only ultimately have a negative effect on their mental health. Looking into the history, Spears has been a victim of an industry fuelled by misogyny, and I felt passionately about exploring this, especially against the backdrop of a post – #MeToo era. I was also fascinated by the emergence of the #FreeBritney movement, and the reciprocal nature of the star/fan relationship and wanted to explore this story from the perspective of a fan.
Saving Britney: Prologue is a digital production. Can you tell us how this relates to your production of Saving Britney?
Shereen: Saving Britney: Prologue is a blessing in disguise and a great way to introduce the wonderful character of Jean to the world. Saving Britney follows Jean’s life journey as a Britney Spears Superfan and how having her idol by her side the whole time has helped shape and form the woman she is today – the digital production digs deeper into Jean’s quest to Free Britney! I keep comparing it to 90s food … it’s like a side order of Prologue turkey twizzlers to go alongside your Saving Britney Potato Smiley and Pizza Bagel!
Saving Britney was originally scheduled to be performed at The Old Red Lion Theatre in January. Are there plans for this to be staged in front of a live audience in the future?
David: The Old Red Lion have been incredible supporters of the project from Day 1, and we’re so grateful to them for their continued involvement in this production. We do have some very exciting news about when Saving Britney will be coming to live audiences that should be announced very soon – so watch this space!
Shereen – can you tell us about your character Jean?
Jean is passionate, enthusiastic, and full of life – especially when it comes to Britney! She will go from talking about Spears and somehow link it up with a turtle or something! Her brain works 10,000 miles per hour but in the most endearing way. Her life has taken twists and turns much like Britney’s and like all of us she is just trying to always figure it out. Most of the time she puts on her best brave face and faces every day with humour and grace but behind closed doors we can see her pain and anger towards an unravelling world.
David – you have written a diverse range of plays. Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?
Aside from Saving Britney, recently I have been working predominantly as a lyricist and co-book writer with my regular writing partner Callum Hughes. We currently have 3 musicals in development – including Into Thin Air, a musical based on the incredible true story of DB Cooper; a mysterious man who jumped out of a plane in 1971 with a quarter of a million dollars – never to be seen again! I have also produced and curated 20:20 Vision since 2013; an immersive new writing festival that runs as part of the Bath Fringe in June, so we’re currently trying to work out what that will look like this year.
Shereen – you recently won a ‘The Actors Planet’ Monologue 2020 Award. Can you tell us more about that?
Ahhhhh! Winning that competition was such an honour! The Actors Planet are amazing winning a chat with casting director Peter Hunt was an absolute joy! Honestly, the winning monologue I wrote for it came out like word vomit. We had pretty much just got into lockdown and I was definitely struggling mental health wise as was most of the world. Having the task of writing a monologue and performing it was not only helpful but extremely rewarding. When I write or perform, I think it’s more heart-breaking when you add a little humour and that is exactly what The A Word is all about! I spoke from the heart and pushed myself that one step further towards my own self-care and worth. Side note: the outtake video for it is a must see on my IGTV!
You’ve written a play about Britney Spears. I have to ask whether you are both big fans of Britney Spears?
Shereen: Britney has always been a part of me! Fun fact: I was a Britney tribute for a night at a bar in Bournemouth back in the day! As well as scoring tickets to an exclusive screening of Crossroads before its official release (I knew people – ha!) I have always been a fan and until now I thought I knew or understood what the media had fed me over the years, especially about her mental health! Co-devising Saving Britney opened my eyes up to the world we live in and how I adhered to it without a thought or question. My favourite Britney song has to be ‘Sometimes’ – I know every word and always made up wonderfully awful contemporary style dances to it as a kid that I would proudly show my Nan who was so wonderfully supportive of what I can only imagine was so horrendous! (WE ALL DID IT!)
David: One of the things I was passionate about bringing to the script was a sense of fun and nostalgia surrounding the late 90s and early 00s. The full play tracks much of Jean’s life growing up in this time period, and as someone in their early 30s myself, there’s a lot of personal connection in this. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say I was personally a huge fan of Britney Spears before beginning work on the play (I’m afraid my music tastes stop around 1984!) I have since become a massive appreciator of her music, but more importantly an admirer of her strength, independence, and struggle as an artist in an industry that is designed to break so many people.
Producer, Director, Writer, Lyricist and Performer working in UK, USA, Paris, and China. Artistic Director at Fake Escape and Projects Producer for Dream Arts.
A selection of David’s previous productions:
My Father The Tantric Masseur, 20:20 Vision, Red Ribbons, My Fate Is My Own, UKCI Musicals [Lessons Learned, First Spirit, Living Out Loud], Venus and Adonis, The Hound Of The Norwoods, A Dream Of Dying, Classified, Macbeth, The Little Mermaid, An Idle World, Cinderella: The Anti Panto, A Life In Monochrome.
Performer, Singer, Writer – Winner of ‘The Actors Planet’ Monologue competition 2020.
A selection of Shereen’s previous work:
Theatre – Starving, Mummylogues, Beautiful Halo, Britains Got Fashion, The Scene Scratch, How To Write A Topical Play, The Social Notwork, Pride and Prejudice: the Panto, Always The Bride, Me And My Friend.
TV – Doctors, Midsummer Murders, Bloody Tales.
Films – Some Adult Content, Alley Cats, Under My Skin, London to Birmingham