Thursday, 22 August 2019

COMEDY REVIEW: Juliette Burton: Defined - Teviot Building, Gilded Balloon - Edinburgh.

Juliette Burton’s show is about how we define ourselves. Following a year of huge change, she has had to redefine her “life, labels and herself” after everything she felt to be true has vanished. Setting out to explore her contradictions (is she a pessimist or optimist? Introvert or extrovert? Mentally ill or well? Happy or sad?) she asks the universal question: “Can we be everything at once….or must we choose how we are defined?”

I will say straight away here, that the following statement does NOT reflect the way I felt about the show as a whole (which was great by the way). However when we were asked in a rather tightly packed queue outside (very typical at the Gilded Balloon’s Teviot building which really does make inventive use of every available space) to write 5 things about how we define ourselves, I struggled to juggle pen, paper, bag, umbrella, drink, ticket, notebook - and ended up writing “Hate doing things like this” in a fit of irritation. We’ll come back to that at the end of this…

So after what myself and my companion felt was a slightly awkward first few minutes, Juliette Burton comfortably got into the flow of her show; starting with a few anecdotes about how the media have defined her in the past culminating with “... and the Dunstable Gazette defined me as ‘female’ “ She engaged us, her audience in a highly personable and endearing manner, with her clear purpose of creating a ‘personal relationship’ between us really succeeding, without trying too hard. By the end of the show we indeed left with the sense that we had made a new friend and genuinely wanted the rest of her show, and life to be a success!

Because after all we had learned a hell of a lot about Burton - some of it very funny, some poignant, all very worthy of 60 minutes of being drawn into the world of this farmer’s daughter turned lawyer turned actress / comedienne / mental health advocate. We learned of her conservative, racist, anti-vegetarian possibly inbred farming family (all said semi-tongue in cheek) - the only exception to this sole ‘Burton’ career purpose being “my uncle who is a porn star”. She told us of last year’s engagement break-up and the fact that unfortunately he “didn’t turn out to be a lying, thieving, cheating bastard just as I had a whole hour of Edinburgh material to write!” After this adjustment we learned of her new ‘engagement’ with a dating app called ‘Fumble’ (which I learned through the wisdom of Google afterwards was an ironic take on the real-life ‘Bumble’) including a rather ridiculous video to demonstrate to us her local dating opportunities (a field of bulls that she runs out of in horror!); which swiftly lead to the limited way we have to define ourselves on a dating site to ensure at least some ‘swipe lefts’.

Interwoven into further very funny ‘life’ insights such as the fakery of social media (“the enviable photo of me in a candlelit bath cleverly omitted the fact that afterwards my hair caught on fire and I spilled ALL of my large G&T”) and the social etiquette of wearing underwear (“Rule One - wear some”), was her very personal perceptive commentary into the labelling of mental health conditions and how these also define us. Asking members of the audience which of nine mental health issues she has been labelled with - from Bulimia to Separation Anxiety Disorder - we learned that in fact she has, at one time or other, been diagnosed with ALL of them. From here on the show (for me at least) took on a greater depth of meaning. And whereas Burton’s show wasn’t just about mental health issues, the clever interweaving of her own experiences gave another very personal dimension to her performance (not least with such observations that “all therapists either sound like phone-sex or Zippy from Rainbow!”)

‘Defined’ is a strong contender for an hour very well spent at Edinburgh in a sea of hundreds of stand-up shows. Burton’s delivery is personable, human, original, quite wacky and very importantly, universal. Although the content of her multi-layered show is highly personal, she is delivering material that many of us can relate to on whichever level - whether or not we are 34 year old females from a Cambridgeshire farming community.

And I was delighted (although by the end a little embarrassed) when my 5 words of how I define myself (borne out of not-out-of-character impatience before the show) was announced as the runner-up in Burton’s favourite responses. Actually the others were far funnier and more engaging - as was her show. And as she told us she has relaxed her flyering levels this week - attempting to control her OCD and actually enjoy the final week of The Festival - my advice is to just turn up anyway.

Juliette Burton is at the Guilded Balloon Teviot (Sportmans) until 25th August.

Reviewer - Georgina Elliott
on - 20/8/19

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