Juliette Burton’s new show about body image is a rare combination of thoughtful, truthful and funny. The subject of body image is well-trod, but Burton manages to find new insights, mainly through describing her own shocking experiences.
Burton cuts a glam figure, as she introduces herself to the audience and seats them for her show. It would be easy to assume this could be a true vanity project – and I didn’t know how well I was going to take being lectured on body image by this young, thin woman. But appearances can be deceptive. Burton toys with our assumptions about her, instructing us to call out words to describe her (mine was “confident”) and then stripping all that away.
The core of the show features Burton in filmed sections, where costume and make-up transform her into other versions of herself. She appears as a man, an old woman, a highly-sexualised woman and more. These are all absorbing, and even the ones that could have been uncomfortable – at one point she ventures out wearing a niqab veil – are dealt with intelligently and sensitively. Burton is insightful about all the personae she tries on. After she goes out in tiny shorts and a crop top, she notes that, although this didn’t work for her, it’s fine for anyone to dress that way if they want to.
Other pieces work less well. The show’s weakest link is its reliance on women’s magazines as the arbiters of all body-image issues. I am no fan of women’s magazines, but I do feel that today, images of bodies to aspire to come from more places than just glossy pages. The opening section, where Burton is air brushed, felt like something I’ve seen many times before and was nowhere near as innovative as the rest of the show. And the finale, where Burton revealed she appeared in the current issue of Cosmo, was a head-scratcher. So, are magazines bad then, or what?
But this show succeeds (and oh, it does succeed) on Burton’s infectious charm. Her performance is totally delightful. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her at the end of the show, and it’s her charm – alongside her brutal honesty in revealing her own body battles – make this show truly remarkable.