Tomorrow night sees the big-screen premiere of the short SuperMum at the Vue cinema in London’s Leicester Square – part of the Raindance Film Festival. It stars comedy performer Juliette Burton in the title role.
“Yes,” she told me yesterday. “My massive face on a massive screen. Its also going to be part of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Because my character happens to be lesbian.”
“Now THAT is real acting,” I said. “How did you get to be a lesbian SuperMum?”
“I auditioned for the writer-director Lisa Gifford and her partner Elisar Cabrera who produced it. I went in for a proper audition where I had to read a scene and do stuff, but they just wanted to chat to me and talk about the script and what I thought about it. That was back in April.”
“So, in the script,” I said, “you are super and you are a mum.”
“Yes. SuperMum’s day job is being a superhero and I was attracted to it because it was about the conflict between two different lives: wanting to spend time with your family and wanting to devote yourself to a career you really love. And then the fact the media keep focussing on irrelevant things like Has she gained or lost a few pounds? What is she wearing? Who does her hair? Who designed her cape?
“It’s a mockumentary about the dissonance between what she is in reality as a mother and as a wife, in her lesbian partnership, and who she is as a superhero. The media see her as someone else. It was interesting because the weekend we started filming it was the weekend that the Beach Body Ready controversy kicked off.
“I was getting all these Twitter notifications and people wanting to do interviews about the Beach Body Ready thing and I was getting trolled really badly. I was very fragile and the production crew was so supportive. It involved working with children and animals, which was fun, and involved me running around a lot wearing Lycra. It was very bizarre running around being a Lycra superhero at that time.
“I just had a birthday a few days ago, so I’ve been reflecting on the last year and it’s been quite a challenging year in lots of ways, but it’s also been quite a transforming year. Oh! That sounds really cheesy, doesn’t it? That’s so cheesy! But that whole debacle had a big effect on me.”
“You did a routine about it shortly afterwards,” I said. “At your monthly Happy Hour show.”
“Yes. That was the first time I felt like me again. If I hadn’t been performing at that time, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten stronger again.”
“And your next show is…?” I asked.
“I’m going to be doing a first work-in-progress performance of Decision Time at the Leicester Comedy Festival next February.”
“I thought,” I said, “that you were going to do Dreamcatcher as your next Edinburgh show.”
“Well,” said Juliette, “having done loads of research for it, I think Dreamcatcher’s going to take a different form. It was going to be about psychosis and the idea of sanity and whether I’m still crazy now. I do like the idea of exploring sanity, especially within comedy, because there’s no place for sanity in comedy.”
“Or in contracts,” I said. “Everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Clause.” (Look, I like the Marx Bros; what can I say?)
“Decision Time,” continued Juliette, “is more relevant to what’s going on in my life right now, because I’m having to make lots of big decisions in my life and some are fun and happy and some are quite sad and difficult. So the show will be about how people make decisions. I am very indecisive and my family have been very worried about me being left behind in life because I’m not…”
“…married to a farmer?” I suggested.
“… getting a mortgage or a marriage,” Juliette continued, “or babies or ‘a proper career’…”
“… by marrying a farmer,” I suggested again. Juliette’s family is in farming.
“I never met a farmer who came to a comedy club,” she told me. “Anyway, I decided I would do a show about indecision and choices. I’m workshopping it between now and early February and then, in early February, it is likely I will be doing my first work-in-progress performances of it…”
“But you haven’t decided yet?” I asked.
“… hopefully at the Leicester Comedy Festival,” continued Juliette. “But I can’t confirm that yet.”
“Last time we talked,” I said, you had been recording a Mills & Boon audiobook for the blind.”
“I’m now,” said Juliette, “recording a book called The Visitors for the RNIB – which is as scary as it sounds – and the next one I’m recording is Glitter. But the last one I recorded was Dark Obsession by Fredrica Alleyn – the dirtiest book I have ever read. Basically, someone has made a list of all the fetishes you could possibly have and has written them into a story.”
“Like Fifty Shades of Grey?” I asked.
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Juliette, “could learn from Dark Obsession. What I realised when I was reading it was that, with all of these books, you can usually stop if it gets too sordid or a bit heated. But you can’t if you’re reading it as an audiobook for the RNIB. You have to keep going. So, when I was reading some ridiculous sentences about clitoral rings and throbbing balls and S&M and all kinds of contraptions, wearing no make-up in a tiny little room with a sound engineer in the next door room, I kept thinking it was a lot darker than I was expecting and I got bored by sex. By the end of the book, there had been so much sex that I was bored of it.”
“It’s debatable,” I said, “when you’re doing the voice for an audio book, whether you are an objective narrator or being a stand-in for the person listening to it.”
“I didn’t want to read it too seductively,” replied Juliette, “because I would have found that too uncomfortable and, as a narrator, I was a third party observer. When I’m a character seducing another character then, yes, I have to sound seductive. But, when I’m the narrator talking about these people in the third person, then I have to sound fairly detached from it. You have to be engaged but some of the scenarios being described were quite analytical. I have to say it’s the most challenging audio book I have done.”
“And?” I asked.
“And I’m doing a couple of feminism talks in October and also a couple of mental health talks in London, Sheffield and London again. And, next Tuesday in London, there’s my monthly Happy Hour.”
“You’re taking things easy, then,” I said.
SuperMum is currently online.