From the moment Jo walked out on stage at Camden People’s Theatre, wearing little more than an arrestingly defiant stare, it was clear If Britney could get through 2007… was going to be a show which doesn’t care what you think.
The story begins with 17-year-old Jo Hauge hacking their hair off with the kitchen scissors and then a razor one day after school, the ultimate act of teenage rebelliousness. Only a week later, pop icon Britney Spears did exactly the same during her 2007 breakdown – and just like that, Jo’s queer punk credibility was ruined.
In the following weeks, Jo was asked multiple times whether they’d copied Britney, always replying aggressively that it was Britney who had done the copying. But this isn’t a show designed to put Britney down, or defend her either – she doesn’t need defended.
Instead Jo uses the work to pay glorious homage to the music star by performing her classic hits throughout, giving them a grunge twist as part of non-binary punk band Jo and the Jo’s (Bitch). Ray Filar on guitar and Hollis Robin on drums help Jo to channel Britney with a latex red catsuit (of Oops!… I Did it Again fame) and platinum blonde wigs.
The show doesn’t delve into the complexities behind Britney’s meltdown, but clearly respects her for being such a strong figure. At one point Jo asks the audience to join in a collective chant of ‘Leave Britney alone’, the famous line from Chris Crocker’s viral video, which seems to act as a cathartic ritual.
In fact, the piece as a whole is very cathartic. Reading from the pages of their sparkly notepad, Jo takes the audience on their journey from troubled teenager to self-assured femme – and by that they mean ‘definitely not feminine, but fuck you and your binaries’.
Jo’s monologue is spiky and heartbreaking in turns, but it was the dark humour that was most memorable. The story of the boy made of balloons Jo was given when younger after longing for a baby brother is one instance of this which gives the show so much authenticity and warmth.
A feisty exterior occasionally slips to reveal a vulnerability underneath, as Jo reveals their struggles with mental health and an obsession with bodily control. It was powerful and empowering to behold.
It all built to a beautiful finale, which saw wigs flying around the stage in chaotic fashion. Hair was a key motif throughout the piece, one which could have perhaps been explored even further. A bag of hair which started its life on Jo’s head before being locked away in their bedroom as a teenager, ended the night being flung all over the stage in joyful bliss. It was an apt representation of Jo’s transformation from frustrated teen to fully-fledged wonderful being.
This was a smart, funny and at times heart-wrenching exploration of growing up, finding identity and rejecting the binaries that fail to define us.