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Brighton Fringe 2014

When I Grow Up

Juliette Burton

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten


Low Down

Do we realise our childhood dreams, and does it matter? Comedian Juliette Burton shares her own moving sotry, laced with farming, ballerinas and her take on life and happiness.


This is a story about life – specifically a life. It’s the story of Juliette Burton herself and to tell you too much more will spoil that story. Juliette (Mace and Burton) Burton has departed from "sheer comedy" and laced that comedy with a powerful narrative that builds its impact as the hour progresses.

This is grown-up storytelling that begins deceptively lightly. What appears to start out as a Hello-magazine guide to growing up and finding your purpose, because something more tender, more painful (for good reasons), and therefore more engaging and charismatic. Burton certainly has loads of charisma, is able to hold her own on stage for an hour or more, and should give herself more permission to improvise. When she does, her monologue becomes even more special. Occasionally it felt too script-reliant and a bit rushed.

That said, pace is a big strength; the script is well crafted and there are projected slides and some very funny film clips. They feel home made but never amateurish which adds plausibility to the story. The films are tongue-in-cheek but laced with real connection to her own tale. Burton has struggled to find her calling in life and, as we often discover, it is that very struggle that is part of our calling. For then we learn, we reflect, and grow into who we are really meant to be. This is very much a true-fable for our times.

This is a show about the importance of fun, and there’s a lot of fun in the show. Moments of intensity are rare and well chosen. There’s a lightness and a warmth to the comedy and when the punchy lines and backhander comments come, they punch all the better for not being overdone.

The style is direct throughout, Burton engages well with the audience in this small theatre space. Her self-deprecation is balanced by a journey-story that results in a new found self-understanding and confidence. I could see many in the audience relating to her life-tale, and we all appreciated the warmth and the wit.

Ultimately the message isn’t new, and nor is it intended to be. This is a life-affirming show, that treads courageously into the shadows when it needs to. It brings back insights and Burton shares those eloquently with us. It’s all the better for being her story, her vulnerability. That’s comedy theatre at its best – sharing vulnerability with humour and life-won wisdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed and valued this performance, and look forward to seeing more of this intelligent docu-comedy work.