REVIEW: Look At Me: Juliette Burton (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Matt Baker


[Looking for Laughs]

The irony of our awareness of body shaming in advertising is that the implementation of it persists regardless. Actress, writer, and performer Juliette Burton’s contribution to the conversation is just one of many where companies continue to be exposed for marketing campaigns that perpetuate concepts of health and beauty which propagate negative self-worth. A personal story that eventually becomes a broader social commentary, Look At Me examines the variety of juxtapositions we face in an effort to present ourselves to the world the way we think is best.

With an exuberance that often misplaces the landings to her jokes, Burton comes across as more of a television personality talking to a camera than as a comedian engaging with a live audience. That’s not to say she’s not funny or symbiotic, simply that her humour more often than not doesn’t generate audible laughs from her audience. Burton wants us to laugh. She wants to use comedy to expose the truths she’s discovered in both her life and research for this show, and while there’s nothing you cannot joke about, you cannot force a laugh where one does not exist.

Projection, video, lighting, and sound are all elements Burton employs to relatively dramatic effect in executing the journey of the show, however, I’d give it all up for her to take me on the journey by herself. I’d rather see one woman with a microphone and let her show me what she thinks is funny, rather than comment meta-theatrically on it. And while Burton is candid in her performance, I want to see her, and consequently this show, more honestly exposed without the spectacle to truly experience the humour and pathos that exists within it.

Look At Me may not be a show best suited for a comedy festival, but its relevance is important for men and women of all ages, as acknowledged by the nodding heads and audible “mms” of agreement from both genders throughout the opening night performance. More of an informal 20/20 or 60 minutes, it’s an opportunity for those who want to discuss the issue further with those in their lives, on either side of the debate, to provide a catalyst for thought.

Look At Me is performed by Juliette Burton and plays at the Q Vault until May 7. For details see the Comedy Festival.

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