Juliette Burton: Look At Me | Review by Steve Bennett
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Juliette Burton: Look At Me

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Steve Bennett

This show, about body image, is clearly deeply important and personal to Juliette Burton, and not one that’s particularly easy for her to tell.

As she revealed in her 2013 offering, When I Grow Up, she has had issues with anorexia, over-eating and bulimia throughout her life, penduluming from a size 4, so frail she hallucinated and almost died, to a 22. Now she’s a healthy in-between.

Life has been a battle with her critical inner monologue, a voice she calls Tania, constantly telling her that she’s not good enough. It’s a voice that’s amplified by women’s magazines and the multi-billion-pound industries of fashion and cosmetics that fund this insidious trade in inadequacy.

Although they bear repeating, the points she makes about this media pressure are rather familiar, including the time-lapse film that opens the show, laying bare the hours of preparation and Photoshop jiggery-pokery that creates the ‘perfect’ magazine image. Burton tackles the subject pretty head-on, so this show initially sounds more like a campaigning TED Talk than a from-the-heart stand-up routine, an impression reinforced by her actorly delivery of the script. But as she puts more of herself into the picture, the show comes to feel more honest and less staged.

Since she’s an ex-journalist, there is always a strong element of docu-comedy to her work; and here it takes the form of going out on to the streets of London is various guises, from the ‘kinda slutty’ hotpants-and-crop-top look, to a little old lady. She learns, to little surprise, that people judge you on the way you look. But it’s also the way she carries herself, less confident in the skimpy clothes, that influences the reaction.

The conclusions aren’t as clear-cut as, perhaps, she’d like, since she seems to feel most at home when she either conforms entirely to an ultra-conservative dress… or when she goes for an entirely nonconformist look that even Lady might baulk at, turning heads on her own terms.

More significant is the point made effectively and directly by the talking-heads video that ask if we can’t look past minor fashion decisions in judging people, how can we look past more obvious points of difference.

If this review is making the show seem a little serious and issues-driven, well, that’s because it is –  complete with climactic feelgood message to cut through all the nonsense about their bodies that young girls, especially, are exposed to. Look At Me would make a good inspirational, educational speech as a counterbalance to all that.

Burton makes her points with likeable good humour and even if she says the confidence she exudes is fake, it doesn’t seem that way. That’s because the show clearly matters so much to her, and the conviction easily translates to self-assuredness. Tania is talking rot, Juliette is good enough, for sure.

Review date: 1 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon

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