It's 2am. I have awoken abruptly which is normally a key indicator that I either want to do something creative or read. Both activities is almost guaranteed to induce sleep.
Some hours ago, I was sitting in front of my laptop awaiting entry to East Riding Theatre's presentation of Juliette Burton's '(Re)Defined' show. It was the first time outside of the odd work meeting where I have used Zoom for pleasure and initially, I had a horrible feeling it wouldn't work.
The structure of the show was similar to the Greenwich Theatre production that I attended in person but with the added bonus of getting to see people. The Zoom format seems an absolute boon for creative people who wish to share their wares. The 2020 equivalent of a one person show in a small venue where the audience are all given equal attention if they wish it.
After I realised that I was initially invisible (Juliette mentioned that she couldn't see many people or I may have imagined that), I somehow managed to work out how to turn my webcam on.
In a show about definitions and how we choose to perceive ourselves in the light of our characteristics, conditions or mental status etc. I think I have always defined myself by my sense of distance. I am the guy on the periphery, not exactly a voyeur or wallflower. More of an observer, trying to understand where I fit in. I certainly don't like looking at myself on screen but it felt right on Zoom and in the context of this show, I let myself come out of hiding.
It was also nice to see people I had been in the company of at the Greenwich Theatre show.
Juliette Burton took centre stage, beguiling the audience and making us laugh or cringe as she offered snippets from her life and the videos that she has clearly worked hard on with her various collaborators including Robert (co-star and joint writer of the lovely film about socially distanced dating).
The brilliant aspect of Zoom that in theatrical or comedic terms could probably be defined as heckling or simply talking non-stop over the performers was the chat that went on throughout the show. The audience could and were encouraged to interject. As Juliette described, it must be really hard performing in an environment where you can't hear the laughter of the audience or experience the vibrations of positivity that come from a happy audience. You have to pick up the mood from random comments in the chat and emojis.
Emojis are probably the nearest a performer can get to an audience member emitting a belly laugh from the centre of a venue.
Juliette was also very gracious with her time and allowed a question and answer session afterwards. The amusing thing about question and answer sessions is the fact that they always divide audiences, I have seen mass exoduses prior to q and a's in the theatre for a variety of reasons but when you are at home and a performer has shared her hard work with you, it's only fair that you stick around (although, you are forgiven for not sticking around if you need the loo etc ;-) )
Juliette kindly answered my questions about the artwork on the wall behind her and about the glitter design on her face.
I was fascinated to learn that the act of applying the glitter and make-up is self-empowering. I guess it shouldn't surprise me because make-up is a powerful signifier in some cultures (an assertion of individualism and position). Also a way of standing out and making yourself noticed or noticable. Also I kept thinking of clowns (sorry, Juliette) and how their unique make-up helps to define their performance style. Historically, professional clowns also trademark their facial designs.
Again, as with my previous blog entry, I won't spoil the show as there is one more performance available online in a couple of weeks and to focus too heavily on certain features of the show may spoil it slightly.
Needless to say, having seen myself on screen, I still feel a bit like a moth drawn to the light. But my respect and admiration goes out to Juliette. She can hold an audience entranced for a ninety minute period even when her image freezes momentarily through technological dropouts (didn't lose any of the content when this happened and it enabled a greater reflection on the importance of the glitter! Tee hee!)
Online, she performs to a row of boxes. Onstage, she performs to rows of stalls. But in essense, she performs to the hearts of the audience, however they are framed. She gives out positivity in an era of uncertainty.
She doesn't like Digestive biscuits but hey, she can be forgiven that transgression.
Juliette, keep shining and reflecting and please remember that when things are horrible, you have empowered and offered comfort blankets to your audience. They may be metaphorical blankets, but no less warm and reassuring to their recipients.
Keep glittering, Juliette. The world needs more positivity.
Barry Watt - 21st November 2020.
Juliette Burton has a website where you can learn more about her work and see lots of great stuff. Also there is a link to a future online show provided by the Museum of Comedy in London:
Heck, here's the link to the show on 3rd December 2020:
Zoom is an online platform allowing lots of frustrated workers to keep in touch with each other and to discuss the relative value of biscuits during a pandemic. Also it allows performers and creatives to keep in touch with audiences:
East Riding Theatre who kindly hosted the performance last night have a website and they have future virtual performances available:
The Greenwich Theatre have a great website too and future productions coming up. Please support your local venues:
Digestive biscuits are of course the staple ingredient of any healthy diet (Juliette, I humbly apologise for my comment that you could be a spokesperson for the biscuit ;-)):