How (not) to Live in Suburbia

How (not) to Live in Suburbia is Annie Siddons’ new autobiographical story of her life following her family’s decision to move to “Twickenham, Home of Rugby”. A recently divorced mother of two, under pressure from a pushy agent, and hopelessly cut off from her friends and the true love of her life, London, Siddons struggles to fit in to her new surroundings. She becomes desperately isolated and soon becomes haunted by the “Walrus of Loneliness”.

This physical manifestation of her isolation feeds off the anxieties and stresses of being a single mother, being uprooted, not fitting in, not finding love

This physical manifestation of her isolation feeds off the anxieties and stresses of being a single mother, being uprooted, not fitting in, not finding love – and in turn makes it harder for her to write and connect with new people. Siddons struggles to break free of this vicious cycle with a series of increasingly self-destructive relationships and sexual encounters. These decisions, however, only make the Walrus stronger. Her struggle nearly consumes her, but she is able to check her downward spiral and seek out the help she needs to course correct.

It is a moving tale of survival told through a combination of narration, film and some simple stage-performance. Nicki Hobday appears as a younger Siddons at choice moments of weakness, vulnerability and soul searching. However, the main driver of the plot is the interplay between Siddons’ metaphor-laden narration and Richard DeDomenici’s absurdist film clips.

Indeed the somewhat amateurish-feeling clips were perhaps the most original element of the production. Simple decisions were made to exaggerate and heighten each scene: depicting Siddons’ break-up with her partner with heightened Victorian dialogue and costume, or showing off her failures to fit in with others in “Twickenham, Home of Rugby” by having her pelted with cupcakes whilst wearing a suit of armour to a garden party. These small slices of surrealism provided a welcome source of comic relief, as well as more entertaining way of exploring conventional situations that might have otherwise seemed stale.

The show also benefits from Siddons’ sharp eye for piercing through the pretensions of the characters she comes across. Her obnoxiously posh agent, her superficial neighbours, her artsy friends, or even her younger self – no one was safe from her cutting quips.

Yet what is most admirable about this show is its honesty – a true survivor’s story, told with a deeply dark sense of humour. Even when recounting her darkest hours, Siddons is able to maintain her sense of humour and tell her story with a sense of lightness.

Thus even though there isn’t anything particularly novel about it, How (not) to Live in Suburbia still provides an entertaining and moving story for its audience to connect with. Siddons’ act of simply telling her story may be particularly encouraging for those struggling with ‘walruses’ of their own, but the humour and courage that permeate from it make for a tale that all can easily relate to.

Reviews by nishant_raj

Soho Theatre

How (not) to Live in Suburbia

★★★

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The Blurb

Following its successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe run at Summerhall in 2016, Annie brings her show about living in suburbia to Soho Theatre. Through performance and surreal film, she recalls her gauche attempts to fit in with the yummy mummies who run triathlons and the families that row and cycle at weekends. From sexist toddler groups, to judgmental book group leaders to the advances of married men, Annie takes a poignant and humorous look at what it is to live in a community you don’t fit in, the compromises we make for the sake of our children, how chronic loneliness manifests itself and her own personal quest to cure it.

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