Writer: Annie Siddons
Co-Directors: Justin Audibert and Nicki Hobday
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
It’s a curious strategy, at a time when there’s a tangible backlash against the centricity of London theatre, to bring a show that extolls the virtues of all things Capitol to a regional theatre festival.
Annie Siddons doesn’t care.In How (Not)To Live In Suburbia, Siddons spends an hour telling us how her life outside the centre of the city – in this case Twickenham (“Home of Rugby”) – is akin to exile to the wastelands. If Siddons is mocking those who live in this artistic bubble, the cultural enclave of New Cross where it is forbidden to venture from, or secretly desires to move there is never 100% clear.
What is clear, is that for Siddons, life in the big city, even in the relatively leafy and affluent Twickenham (“Home of Rugby”), is a lonely existence. Divorced and with two young children, played here by Olive trees, Siddons feels isolated and visited by the ‘Walrus of Loneliness’.
She tries to escape the solo life, looking for solace in book clubs, romance and random sex but nothing helps. When the ‘Seal of Shame’ arrives it looks like Siddons has no escape. But Siddons is a survivor.
Siddons utilises humour as a shield but there’s real pain, real pathos on display here, counterbalanced with Richard de Domenici’s hilarious film excerpts of the more bizarre elements of her life. It is almost as if there are two Annie Siddons, the performer and the private individual.
It’s a split emphasised with the appearance of her co-performer, Adam Robertson who plays the slightly grotesque alter ego of Siddons, complete with ginger wig and beard, like some crazed tribute to Conchita Wurst. Robertson allows Siddons to say the things she finds too painful or too embarrassing. Robertson able to tell her stuck up former agent what she really thinks.
Siddons eventually realises that collaboration, in life and in her writing is the way forward and you sense that a kind of peace has settled on her. She doesn’t want pity, she doesn’t want an easy ride. She just wants to share her story.
Despite the promise of the main body of the work, the ending of the piece seems hurried and the ends all wrapped up slightly to neatly and too quickly. The piece fizzles out rather than exit with a bang and it is a shame, as there’s been so much potential building during the proceeding 50 minutes.
At the end of the day, this may be a tale of Twickenham (“Home of Rugby”) but actually, the location doesn’t matter. From big city to tiny remote village, the walrus of loneliness can strike when least expected, the trick is to catch it before the seal of shame visits.
Reviewed on 1 June 2016 | Image: Contributed