After a wonderfully awkward bus journey and pretty long walk that led me from New Cross to Lewisham, where I passed my first place of paid employment, sadly no longer in existence (it was a comic shop that suffered and benefited from leaks, rodents and lots of brilliant customers). The shop still stands but I don't know what it is any more. Then I walked to Greenwich. A short(ish) walk past the pub that has been converted into flats and the bookshop that has now become a barbers. I am sure that analogies can be made between the act of page turning and hair removal. Both require temporary loss that leads to momentary gain.
Anyhow, I got to the Greenwich Theatre at about 7pm. I was met by a nice usher who examined my confirmation printout (I still can't get used to displaying e-tickets on my phone. Am I the only one who is nostalgic for the feel of card in their hands?). She wore the now customary 2020 accessories of visor and mask. She explained the new methodology of the theatre scene these days, which can be defined quite simply as social distancing whilst desperately trying to retain the sense of togetherness that the theatre instills. The bar experience was a case in point. Two tables with cash card readers were placed in front of the bar and I was advised to sit at one. I was then served and paid on the card reader before taking a seat on one of a handful of tables laid out in a sensible and respectful manner.
Of course, the tables filled up really quickly and one of the ushers let us know that the auditorium was open so to go in as quickly as possible as the seating was unreserved. In a manner that I can only describe as slightly out of character, I ended up necking a glass or more correctly, plastic beaker of red wine in about five minutes. It took me a little while to realise that actually it made sense to get the audience into the auditorium to allow late comers to use the bar.
In the spirit of open disclosure, I frequented the toilets and the urinals were alternately out of use to allow for social distancing (having said that it is a curious fact that most men seem pretty uncomfortable urinating next to each other anyway). I then headed into the main auditorium.
The seats where the audience were permitted to sit were scattered throughout the auditorium. On stage, a screen prompted the audience to define themselves and their town in five words or less. I had done this earlier in the day after reading an email from the Greenwich Theatre with the request from Juliette Burton.
A mysterious female hand moved random combinations of words across the screen. A polymorphous collection of fears, aspirations and hopes. The strengths we embrace and those characteristics that restrain us.
Over the public announcement system, the owner of the mysterious hand of fate advised us the show was due to start about ten minutes late due to latecomers and that we should go and get drinks etc and that she was drinking prosecco (which we were asked to bring back and leave on the stage).
Juliette Burton came on stage and beguiled the audience with her honesty, humour and short videos. I also ended up involved as she read out my definitions from earlier in the day and the question that I had asked her. I stated that my town was defined by 'a walrus and apocryphal stories' (anyone who knows my home town will be familiar with the walrus (one of the older exhibits in Horniman Museum who went on a bit of a tour several years ago). Also the apocryphal stories refer to the alleged plague pits that are apparently located opposite the Horniman Museum (maybe under a kids' paddling pool and playground?) and the so-called Honor Oak (the oak tree where Queen Elizabeth the First rested on a trip to Lewisham located on One Tree Hill). Also the witches' altar that I remember my fellow pupils telling me about when I went to primary school. This too is located on One Tree Hill. I assume it refers to a concrete block but I have never been sure.
More touchingly, at one point in the show, Juliette asked me to help to define the mental health conditions that she has dealt with and explored over the years and I felt as though it was not my place to judge her and I offered that opinion through my mask. I also then felt in a safe place to offer that I had and do suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and depression from time to time. This admittance seems more important than ever these days. I feel that if I can be honest with the people around me, they will hopefully open up if they feel they need to with me. Growth and understanding are only possible when mental health issues are no longer stigmatised. As Juliette wisely said, people who suffer (or who have suffered) from mental health issues are often more empathetic (and also she added, 'better in bed' but I wouldn't know about that).
I am not going into lots of details about the jokes as that would spoil your experience if you haven't seen Juliette yet.
I found Juliette engaging, charming, funny and fundamentally honest. Her costume changes subtly allowed subliminal messages to flow through the air and into the psyches of the audience about her qualities as a human being and her desire to shine (also her belief in the human race). As her last t-shirt may have read (my eyesight is not brilliant), 'Redefining beauty'. This summed up how I felt about the show.
You may be interested to hear that although my journey home was wet and awkward, my mood was elevated and reflective. Thank you, Juliette and Greenwich Theatre.
Barry Watt - 3rd October 2020
Juliette Burton has an excellent website that it is worth looking at:
Greenwich Theatre has a website and I strongly recommend that you support the theatres that you care about if this pandemic has taught us nothing, it has certainly revealed that nothing lasts forever:
Horniman Museum and Gardens is a lovely museum in Forest Hill. They also have a great website:
For more on the lovely walrus, please check the below link:
More information about One Tree Hill can be read below:
If needed, mental health services are still available. If you need to talk to someone urgently, The Samaritans are one option:
Additionally, the charity Mind offers lots of useful information: