When I was at school I loved reading – my favourite books tended to be those from the ‘choose your own ending/adventure’ genre – although admittedly I always read ahead whilst keeping my finger on the decision page in case I was unexpectedly killed or went the wrong way!
Sadly in life, the ability to look ahead isn’t really with us – we have to make a decision and go with it. The latest show from Juliette Burton explores this in a unique and sensitive way.
The show I went to see was performed in Edinburgh in the summer of 2016 and then went to the Adelaide Fringe. Juliette is described as a “critically acclaimed comedian”. However, I don’t know any other comedian on the circuit who does what she does; that is, tell a very personal story outlining her multiple mental health diagnoses, pepper it with one-liners and deliver it with utmost confidence and spirit.
The idea behind this third show, written and performed by Juliette, is that it has come to that point in Juliette’s life when she has to make an important decision. One that she can’t take back. One that will change her life forever. However, Juliette doesn’t like making decisions.
The show externalises the internal dialogue that Juliette faces every day mixed with vox pop style videos, very cute graphics, and her well-researched material. For almost 60 minutes we learn why Juliette struggles with decisions, the coping mechanisms she uses to deal with them (laughter being a major tool) and the fruits of her labour. She warms our hearts whilst regaling stories of lustful pants-down penguins and a handsome bearded man. By the end of the show Juliette is no closer to making a decision, however, she can’t be accused of not researching all angles and playing out all scenarios.
Mental Health is very much “on-trend” at the moment. Finally, the media has woken up and realised that mental health is a universal issue and not one that should be hidden behind curtains and not discussed in the public domain. Major soaps and serial dramas are exploring what it means to have an illness such as depression or acute anxiety. There are many books which talk about personal struggles with the black dog and OCD, there is even an advertising campaign out there bringing mental health into the mainstream. So, why not a stand-up show?
For creating yet another, awe-inspiring 60-minute show addressing the harsh reality of not having good mental health all the time I cannot help but applaud Juliette. She is brave beyond my years and a shining example of the person that this country needs to be an ambassador for mental health issues.
Juliette has partnered with Rethink Mental Illness and Mind: for better mental health, to bring her very personal and sadly very universal story to theatres. Throughout the show Juliette tells us that she can provide information to anyone who feels they want it or need it, she also offers hugs (although she does warn us that her stage outfit could probably stand up on its own from the amount of time she has worn it ) and a comforting smile. To borrow one of her jokes, she is fully committed, or rather was fully committed, to this show.
Juliette has given me the strength to say that I too have struggled with my own mental health, and watching her survive through this show gave me a warm glow and a sense of hope that self-help books don’t. For that, I applaud Juliette and want to thank her for turning her issues into an informative, inspiring and entertaining show.
Review by Faye Stockley
At the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011, Juliette met a man. Skip ahead having moved to Edinburgh and performed her first and second solo shows, as well as two international tours, and suddenly Juliette is faced with a decision. This man has asked her to marry him. That’s the fairytale there, right?! A man asks you to marry him and you’re meant to say yes, right?
Dream achieved! Life goal ticked off the list! But the thing is, Juliette’s not sure what to say. Juliette doesn’t know whether this really is her dream. Faced with a difficult decision, Juliette decided to create a show to help her make up her mind! And she invites you to come along for the ride.
In her show, Juliette explores why she struggles with making decisions whilst looking back at other big choices which she has made previously in her life. She’s not just wondered, “what if?” She has actually done all the ‘highly scientific’ research necessary to find out what would’ve happened had she chosen differently. From a previous proposal from an ex-boyfriend, and a career she turned her back on to become a writer-performer, to her mother dressing her in pink as a child and the decision to call her Juliette… life could have turned out so differently.
Juliette Burton: Decision Time
Leicester Square Theatre Lounge
16 th March 2017