Tuesday, 14 February 2017

REVIEW: How (Not) to Live in Suburbia at the Soho Theatre

Funny, brutal and uncomfortably autobiographical. This is the self-appointed slogan of the Edinburgh Fringe transfer, given mid-show by Annie Siddons, the intelligent writer and principal performer of How (Not) to Live in Suburbia.

This amusing, but oddly touching piece shares a much more profound story than is initially suggested by the sporadic, comedy sketch-like recreations of Siddons’ anecdotes pre-filmed and projected onto a screen behind her during the performance. Richard DeDominici’s clips capture hilariously Siddons’ experiences after moving to “Twickenham – home of rugby” where she is made to feel isolated and ostracised and which is what ultimately leads to her struggle with chronic loneliness.

These clips, along with Siddons’ dry and direct delivery could easily fool you into believing you were watching an Internet vlog, in its starkly open and colloquial attitude.

The darkly humorous beginning masks the gravity of Siddons’ initial descent into loneliness, which leaks out to reveal a much more toxic truth which she bears quite openly in this 60 minute open address to the audience. The writing is excellent – witty, honest and delightfully punchy.

However the performances from both Annie Siddons and her co-performer, Nicki Hobday, who assists by portraying her when Siddons is busy narrating, seem somewhat reticent and lack a charisma that could champion the rich and sardonic text to fully realise its comic potential. I considered whether it would therefore have been more effective to employ someone else to tell the story, but the answer was, absolutely not. This story belongs entirely to Annie, and what it might lack in performance verve, it certainly makes up for in being so genuine.

In a particularly poignant scene, Siddons epitomises everything she loves about her life and her London (before the move to zone 5) with Frank Sinatra’s classic ‘London by Night.’ As she drunkenly sings along to this, alone on her birthday, her deafening chronic loneliness overpowers this mellow melody and we hear Lil Wayne blasted over Sinatra instead. Her loneliness became engulfing and stifling, and reminded us that we are all just treading water – always dangerously close to being drowned out by Lil Wayne ourselves. (Not that there is anything wrong with Lil Wayne).

What could firstly be mistaken for a modern stand up routine with quirky AV to enhance the punch lines, becomes a candid and coarse account of the severe and unexpected which life can bring.

Review by Chester Clark 

Rating: ★★★★
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