My favourite thing about the festival, however, is stumbling across smaller, lesser known acts that make a big impact. When I Grow Up by UK's Juliette Burton is one such discovery; it's a modest little gem that shines brightly. It has done well at the Edinburgh Fringe and recently had a good run at the Adelaide Fringe, and certainly deserves to do well here.
The theme of the show works brilliantly because it is something absolutely everyone can relate to: when you were young, what did you want to be when you grow up? And what do you do now that you have grown up? Why do you do what you do?
Juliette opens the show by asking several audience members this very question and we are engaged immediately because the answers are varied and fascinating, and because it's a question most of us have probably not thought about for a very long time, if at all. Dreams tend to get lost in the messy and very serious process of growing up.
The show is presented as a kind of powerpoint presentation/video documentary as we see photos of the young performer at various ages, with a variety of dream jobs, including ballerina, baker, pop star, princess, artist and Muppet.
After the realities of being grown up bear down, Juliette decides that there's no reason she shouldn't try out these dream jobs, now that she has grown up – after all, maybe the young dreamer Juliette knew what she was dreaming about.
There is some funny footage as the performer dons a princess gown or a tutu and goes about checking out whether these dreams were achievable after all. Her attempts at this wide variety of occupations are by turns funny, heart-warming and even inspirational. Sometimes, if you try hard enough, you can make your dreams come true.
Some of the humour is in the story telling while some comes from some of the interviewees, particularly some of the kids when asked what they want to be when they grow up. There is also a funny appearance by that purple puppet who at last year's comedy festival made me revise my attitude from “I hate puppet comedy” to “I hate puppet comedy except when it's puppet comedy by that purple puppet.” I think his name is Randy and the live discussion with him lots of fun.
Overall, the whole show is lots of fun. But it is also thought provoking (you will think back to what young you thought you would be doing with your life by now, and you will contemplate the whole job/career/vocation thing), and it is, in parts, deeply personal and very confronting. From these parts of the story, as confronting as they are, comes more inspiration and quite a lot of admiration. Indeed, one audience member gave Juliette a hug as she left the theatre. I think it was a hug that said thank you for making it through, and thank you for making this show.
Quirky coincidence brought me to see this show, which I might well have missed. So glad I didn't miss it. By all means see your Steve Hugheses and your Julian Clareys and your Reginald D Hunters, but do yourself a favour and check this one out too. It stays with you long after you've left the theatre.
Imagination Workshop presents
When I Grow Up
Venue: Trades Hall – The Meeting Room | Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton
Dates: 27 Mar – 20 Apr, 2014
Tickets: $15 – $25
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
Part of the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival