HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA tells the story of the lonely life of Annie Siddons. Annie is a writer and a single mum, living in suburban Twickenham, who wholeheartedly loves London but just not that particular area. Annie is pathologically lonely and longs to live in a more artistic London enclave. She also has two imaginary, and highly unwelcome, guardians who follow her around (one of whom is a smelly walrus called The Walrus of Loneliness and the other an un-named, rather aggressive seal). She also has two pretend children, represented by two olive plants in pots, which she carries around with her and lovingly looks after.
Annie has an on stage doppelgänger, Annie’s personal Jiminy Cricket, played by the gorgeous Nickie Hobday. She is more glamorous than Annie, more sparky and better coiffured. She is somewhat censorious of Annie’s laid back nature. Not that Annie is a sad figure in any way, she has a nice upbeat, gritty attitude. True, getting thrown out of the local book club for being too much of a know it all, knocks her back a bit and being dumped by her supercilious literary agent is not great, but she keeps going, onwards and upwards.
Annie Siddons is a London based playwright, musician and actress who has written a number of plays previously, however this is her first autobiographical piece. She comes across as a lovely person. She is forthright, funny, affectionately raw and she is spunky in the old Hollywood movie meaning of the word. She does not seek your sympathy but everybody in the audience felt for her and loved her. This autobiographical performance is a fanciful, agreeable satire. It is witty, inventive and at the same time somewhat absurd. But it feels so true, so honest.
The show is very well conceived and written. It is lyrical and bravely honest. Annie is a top young writer (and of course performer) who deserves the highest recognition. It will be interesting in future to see how her writing develops. Whether her future plays can maintain this quality and whether she eventually becomes mentioned in the same breath as say Ayckbourn, Stoppard etc. I personally would not be surprised.
The Soho Theatre is an excellent venue with very good ancillary facilities. The restaurant and bar are nice and lively and the staff are friendly. The layout of the auditorium is such that they encourage the audiences to engage with the performances.
How (Not) To Live In Suburbia Continues at the Soho Theatre until 18 February 2017. Do try to get there if you can, it is well worth it. However if you do miss it, it will tour in the Autumn to venues including Harlow Playhouse, Norwich Arts Centre and the Luton Hat Factory.
Reviewed by Graham Archer