Juliette Burton: Decision Time, Review

Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Juliette has always struggled with decision-making, and now has to make what may well be the most important decision of her life. She has decided to seek help with this choice, by working through the situation from start to finish with assistance from an audience. To ensure that we can see the bigger picture, Juliette opens up about her loves, her life and the mental health conditions that impact on both.

The show opens with a power-point presentation of choose your own adventure stories, and moves onto entertaining clips of comedians discussing their challenging choices. From here, Juliette takes the audience on a journey through the decisions that have been made for and about her throughout her life so far. Incredibly blunt about the different diagnoses she has received over the years, from anorexia to OCD to bi-polar disorder, Juliette manages to keep her history engaging and comic without detracting from the seriousness of the challenges she has faced, even being sectioned under the mental health act in her teens. This is achieved through the quality of her material and the strength and warmth of her personality. She holds the attention of the audience at all times and they are utterly on her side.

The main focus of the show is that her partner (known as HBM - hairy bearded man - to protect his identity) has proposed and she is not sure about marriage. She has no doubts about her relationship, and gives some deeply personal and emotional examples of the quality of their affection and connection. However, it is the concept of being “a wife” that she struggles with. She wasn’t a little girl who dreamed of becoming a bride, and the stress of the decision has exacerbated aspects of her anxiety and depression. Her parents are from very traditional backgrounds and her sister has followed an expected path, but despite what she perceives as the same conditioning, Juliette is cut from different cloth. Friends and relatives always have opinions, but knowing who to listen to can be hard.

This is an interesting comment on societal and familial pressure to conform to a gender stereotype, and how it can impact on someone who already feels different. This is a theme very much in the zeitgeist and is a hotly debated topic on many feminist Facebook groups and podcasts. For a person who has had issues around finding her place as an individual, and accepting herself as she is, being given away and the other nuptial trappings are understandably hard to swallow. The show gives pause for thought about the weight of expectations and how we cope with them. Juliette delivers a clever and very funny routine comparing the expectations of marriage to those of performance, and the cost of a wedding to the cost of putting on a show in Edinburgh, comments which elicited some sounds of recognition from other fringe veterans in the room.

Decision Time is an intimate piece which works well in the small theatre. Juliette is self-deprecating without the slightest hint of self-pity, and her ability to find the funny, sunny side of life despite her anxiety and depression is a real strength of the production. At the end of the piece Juliette explains that she is aware that there may be people in the audience who have experienced these issues and she can give them contact information for support services on the way out. As there are many potential “trigger” issues in the hour, that is a very responsible consideration, the show has been researched with the support of both ReThink and Mind. This is a surprisingly romantic, solo comedy show which is an ode to choosing love and life whenever you can. Highly recommended.

Runs until 28th August
4.30pm (1 hr)
http://www.julietteburton.co.uk/shows/decision-time/

Author's review: 
5