Juliette Burton: Performance Anxiety Dream

It takes guts to perform on stage, but at this time of year many comedians find themselves in front of an audience even when they are asleep. Juliette Burton explains a recent Fringe anxiety dream

Feature by Ben Venables | 05 Aug 2015
  • Juliette Burton

"I was in a huge sports hall,” says comedian Juliette Burton. "The kind I went to after school as a kid – it was run by Mr Miyagi, who was looking after it for Karen Koren."

Finding oneself with the Karate Kid’s mentor, who in turn is in the employ of the Gilded Balloon's founder sounds strange but is not as uncommon an experience as it might seem. Though the details, such as the location and the personalities will vary, performance anxiety dreams like this beset many Edinburgh Fringe performers.

For the most part, these dreams are grounded in the more mundane realities of putting on a performance. Burton could easily be describing any average waking gig as she continues explaining her dream: "I was preparing to go on stage, worrying about the content of the multimedia aspect of the show, length of script, running over..."

That said, unless the Gilded Balloon were to have modified its theatre spaces, Burton's dream soon took a more fantastical twist: "I noticed the hall was suddenly an ice rink, with kids sliding about on it."

Professor J. Allan Hobson is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep. He tells The Skinny: "Dream science says that anxiety is a universal and Darwinian emotion. It fuels and is fuelled by social role experience."

In Edinburgh, comedians' roles become somewhat exaggerated in terms of the number of performances and the scrutiny the performers are under: the Fringe can resemble something more akin to a trade fair at times. Then there's the financial outlay and other associated Edinburgh pressures, such as the small matter of having the courage to stand on stage and deliver something that will always in some way be personal. And, naturally, the show has to be funny. As Hobson concludes: "No wonder comedians wake up scared."

Juliette Burton: Look At Me, Gilded Balloon (at Pleasance Dome), 16-21 Aug, 4pm, £9-10. Juliette Burton's Happy Hour, Jekyll and Hyde, 22-30 Aug, 2pm, free. Abnormally Funny People, Stand in the Square, 6-16 & 18-30 Aug, 9.40pm, £7-10. J. Allen Hobson, Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Pbk, £7.99. http://www.edfringe.com