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Children Are the Future (Of the Fringe)

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Children are brilliant aren't they? They smile for no reason, dance in the street, cuddle strangers (even when advised otherwise), they say what they mean and they dream big.

Children are a big deal at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Comedy for children and children's theatre seem to be doing fantastically well. Some of the most exciting shows have been created for a younger - and some may say more discerning - audience.

Big names and hotly-tipped rising stars - like Caroline Rhea and Bec Hill - are doing great shows just for children and Fringe staple Shaggers has once again made their family friendly show Huggers successful this year.

Other children's shows are attracting attention too. Hush, Mr Clown and Little Howard's Big Show For Kids are attracting big audiences of excited miniature theatre-goers. I went to see Le Petit Monde last week who received five star reviews for their bilingual puppet show Lapin Wants Breakfast. I loved it. I'm not sure whether it was the puppets, the story or the chatty little children who kept offering helpfully-meant but hilarious heckles but I loved it.

Inner children are also catered for by nostalgia shows. Knightmare Live is a five star success thanks to us children of the 80s wanting to relive a TV favourite. Eric and Little Ern are having a great Fringe-And then there's my childhood favourite - The Henson Company with their muppet improv show for adults.

I've even heard from industry scouts that children's shows are The Thing quite a few production companies are seeking now.

I think there are two reasons for all this:

1. Parents are keen to culture-up their kids from an early age.
2. Everyone - punters and comedy/theatre/TV creators alike - want to regress to childhood.

The recession knocked us all for six. We're all nostalgic for a time when we weren't being made redundant, a time we could dream of being an astronaut without all the financial implications of studying to do so, a time when money and job security didn't seem like the most important thing in our lives, a time when anything seemed possible.

That's the reason why I spent the last year of my life trying to be all the things I dreamt of being as a child. For my show When I Grow Up I made all my childhood dreams come true: ballerina, baker, princess, artist, pop star, farmer, Muppet - I have lived the dream - every dream I ever had.

I did this because I wanted to forget being a sensible "grown up" and I wanted to remember what it felt like to be that excited little girl. And I think a lot of people are feeling the same.

Theatre is meant to be an escape from the real world: for one hour in a darkened room we, the audience, can feel deeply and truthfully about all the things we are struggling to deal through the catharsis of someone else's creative work. We can laugh or cry and both escape but also face up to our own realities.

Yesterday I had three women on the front row of my show in floods of tears. My show is meant to be an uplifting comedy! I had to ask them after the show if they were okay. After the hugging stopped, they were kind enough to reassure me they were fine but that it was a special show and meant so much to them. They opened up about why it affected them so much and that it helped them feel things they hadn't allowed themselves to feel. I was moved.

My childhood was all about escaping to a fantasy world and running away from the real world. Comedy to me was the answer - the perfect balance of living in the real world but also laughing at how hard it was to do so. Now I want to help other people feel less alone by helping them laugh at life together.

If growing up means letting go of dreams then I never want to grow up. If growing up means letting go of that childlike love of being alive then I want to stay a child forever - if not in body then in spirit. And that's the beauty of the Edinburgh Fringe. Everyone here continues to dream big. Everyone here refuses to grow up. And why should we?! When I was a child, anything seemed possible. And that's how I feel at the Edinburgh Fringe. Here, anything - ANYTHING - can happen.

Juliette Burton; When I Grow Up is on every day at the Gilded Balloon Teviot at 13:15pm until the 26 August

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