Annie Siddons returns to Soho Theatre following a sellout in March 2017, and will tour How (Not) to Live in Suburbia through Autumn and Spring 2018. 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. We caught up with Annie to find out more.
How (Not) to Live in Suburbia is at Soho Theatre 29th August to 2nd September 2017.
You’re bringing How (not) to Live in Suburbia to The Soho Theatre before a Tour, what can you tell us about the show?
It’s a hilarious, brutal and poignant show about chronic loneliness. It features me and Nicki Hobday on stage, some excellent video by Richard DeDomenici, and some banging tunes. We opened it in Edinburgh last year and then did it at the Soho in February and they’re bringing us back. Which we’re delighted about. Then we tour it in autumn and spring. You can get tickets for the soho show here. http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/how-not-to-live-in-suburbia
It’s autobiographical, but how much of it actually happened the way it does in the show?
Well that’s for you to figure out when you see the show. But yes, it is autobiographical. And it’s also showbiz. So there’s a sweet spot between those two realities where you honour both. Hopefully. We’re also quite playful. I mean. This is a big philosophical question. My loneliness is a Walrus. Is that a metaphor or reality? You’d have to come and see the show to figure it out.
Tell us about the use of music and video in How (not) to live in Suburbia?
There’s a LOT of both. I worked with Richard DeDomenici on the films. He’s an artimp, city lover, and has a similar sense of playfulness and satire to me. We wanted lots of different languages in this show. The video is kind of “the past” and it contrasts with what is on stage which is “the present”.
With the music – I love music, I’m a musician and I always have a lot of music in my shows. With this one I didn’t want to have someone write a bespoke score because there is so much brilliant music about London and loneliness – Amy! Sinatra! Bowie! The Clash! Bieber! Billie Holliday! Noel Coward! for example – which I wanted to celebrate and which I think adds a real rich evocative flavour to the show. Also, when you’re lonely, you listen to certain songs on repeat….it felt more realistic…..
How (not) to Live in Suburbia got a great reception earlier this year, what else made you want to bring it back?
We did the show in Edinburgh last year, when it was really raw and new, and we’ve developed our thinking on it since then. So we did it for a week in Soho in February and it sold out, which meant we could bring it back now. But really I feel that the journey of the show is just beginning, because I want loads and loads of people to see the show. Partly because I’m really proud of it, and it’s getting better and richer all the time as all the glitches get smoothed out, and partly because I think the conversation about loneliness is an important one and we need to keep having it. We’re right at the beginning of being able to talk about loneliness without embarrassment and not to pigeonhole it as solely an elderly person’s problem. So I want this show to be touring right up until my face looks too different to the face that I had in 2014.
What are you most looking forward to about taking it out on the road?
I love the connection with audiences. It’s the kind of show where I end up hearing all sorts of things about people. It opens them up. So I get to entertain people, which is what I love to do, but then the connection goes deeper, because people get reflective about their own situations, so the circle gets completed. It’s really brilliant. Also, although I’m very definitely of a specific demographic, which we could call boho-in-suburbia middle class single mother in her 40s with a mixed background, the show although it OBVIOUSLY appeals very directly to mothers, and single mothers, and exiled urbanites living in suburbia, it also appeals beyond those demographics. Both very old and very young people, of all genders, have said that the show resonates a lot with them. And that’s brilliant, that it can cut across those obvious groups of people and reach other kinds of people. Because, you know, loneliness is a thing. That we need to talk about.
You’re working with the Samaritans on this, tell us how that came about?
I always knew that I wanted some element of engagement in this show. This was not only to tick arts council boxes but also because in making a show about loneliness it felt like I’d only be partially having the conversation if I didn’t also take my findings out into the community and actually try and soothe some of other people’s loneliness. So there was one mooted version of the show in which we were going to turn my van, (which is an aged Mercedes Sprinter which is the bane of my neighbours’ lives as I have to do 87 point turns in a cul de sac and am always nearly scraping their BMWs,) into a kind of living room in which I took tea with my neighbours and tried to really get to know them and offer a kind of hyperlocal drop in centre. Luckily for me, my teenage daughters put a moratorium on that. I’m glad because I think it would have skewed the show in a particular direction which isn’t necessarily the kind of work I want to make. It would have been hard to avoid a kind of sentimental, pat solution. So I decided to train as a Samaritan, as they/we are hardcore miracle workers, using only training and empathy to get people out of really dark times, 24/7, without an agenda of any kind. And also doing a valiant attempt at mopping up the catastrophic failures of the NHS Mental Health System. And so although my work as a Samaritan is not directly in the show, I do namecheck it at the end, and it serves the purpose of making the show more significant in that I am actually walking the talk of trying to help lonely people. Plus we all know that doing something for others helps us too. Having said that, I have to be honest and say that I am currently on sabbatical because my teenage daughters have both needed me a lot in different ways and I didn’t want to be that mother who is so involved in strangers’ pain that she doesn’t notice what’s going on in front of her.