ANNABEL WILSON caught Juliette Burton’s show ‘Look At Me’ at Bats theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival and shares five reasONs why you should too.
1. Because of her honesty.
Multi-award winning performer Juliette Burton has been “fat, thin and everything in between”. A journalist at heart, Burton lays bare her history with anorexia, over-eating and bulimia as an in-point to a surprisingly vibrant one hour show. Exploring the relationships between self, media and society, she contemplates the messages conveyed to women today around body and self-worth. With her personal story as the central focus, the audience is taken on a thought-provoking journey as she turns our gaze from external appearances, perception and prejudices to what’s inside.
2. Because of the pathos.
Burton talks us through her lowest points, sharing photographs of herself at four stone (when she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act) and a year later when she was at her heaviest, and having suicidal thoughts. These recounts are alarming and upsetting, yet she stares her demons in the eye and is empowered to share and subvert these memories, giving us permission to see the funny side of her darkest days. “Four stone is a UK size four – meant to be a measure of your success as a woman. Which is ironic because my periods actually stopped at this time.”
3. Because of the comedy.
“It’s ok to laugh at all of this,” Burton says, reminding us that through all these sad and painful times, she’s come out the other side. “Obviously, the solution to all of this was to turn to comedy.” She found her tribe in fellow social commentators (working at the BBC) and comedians, and has made her story into a sell-out show laced with humour and audience-inclusive gags.
4. Because of her delivery.
‘Look At Me’ is cleverly structured around the use of anecdote, screen and sound. The show is conveyed magazine style, with Burton as the cover girl – shown on a large screen. She opens the pages into her life, and talks us through her social experiment: in which she drew on her skills as a performer to spend a day scantily clad, a day wearing the hijab, a day as a man, a day as ‘fat’, and finally, old in order to “see if it changed who I was on the inside”. We see go-pro footage of each day, coupled with Burton’s witty and insightful live commentary. Over the PA we also hear the nagging voice of ‘Tania’ – the inner critic Burton goes into battle with. Later, the screen is employed to invite us into the ‘Twitter shitstorm’ that unleashed last year, when Burton tweeted her support for the petition to remove Protein World (aka Sludge Drink)’s body-shaming billboard ads. Slick use of multi-media to explore her key themes.
5. Because of the message.
Burton’s work is conversational, powerful, memorable. It’s an important piece; both entertaining and educational. Young people especially should see this show because they are often those most prone to the messages of media and unrealistic societal constructs around appearance. Most significantly though, ‘Look At Me’ is a story of hope. It’s an uplifting reminder of how perfectly imperfect we all are.
- Annabel Wilson.
Dates: 10 May – 14 May, 7pm
Venue: The Dome at BATS Theatre
Tickets: Full $25, Concession $18, Group $17
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