Annie Siddons’ How (Not) to Live in Suburbia has returned to the Soho Theatre following a sell-out run earlier this year. This autobiographical play melds traditional storytelling with theatre and multi-media, the overall effect is an accomplished and compelling piece of theatre.
At times, it resembles a TED Talk, with Annie speaking directly to the audience, sharing her story in impressively complex alliteration and prose, which is almost hypnotic to listen to. Where a PowerPoint presentation would be, Annie’s monologues are intercut with video montages and music, which provide further context to the story she is telling.
A Londoner through and through, Annie moves to Twickenham – Home of Rugby, but struggles to fit in to the zone 5 crowd. Her attempts at social interaction never come to fruition and she suddenly finds herself desperately lonely. Metaphors are used heavily throughout and she describes her loneliness as a Walrus who is always with her; smelly and unpleasant it prevents her from really achieving her goals, despite frequently penning her own ‘manifesto’s’.
Annie herself is very open and natural, you immediately warm to her as a storyteller and find yourself deeply fascinated in the story she has to tell. It’s clear she’s not afraid to tell things like it is, making the performance feel extremely unmasked and laced with an acute wit.
Annie is joined on stage periodically by Nicki Hobday, who co-directs How (Not) to Live in Suburbia along with Justin Audibert. Hobday plays Annie in caricature form, emphasising the decisions she’s made and the hurt that she feels. It’s thought provoking to watch the real Annie take a step back and look at ‘herself’ in a different place and time. Nicki Hobday is great in the role, and in one particular scene, where she starts sending drunken texts, it’s a gloriously cringeworthy and hilarious at the same time.
As well as pausing for Hobday to take the reins, Siddons also has time to reflect during the short films, directed by Richard DeDomenici. These feel modern and of the social era, some like something you’d see on Snapchat, others more carefully devised mini-feature-films, allowing a wider circle of characters to be introduced. The more traditional theatre-goer may have reservations about such prolific use of video, but it adds so much depth, and indeed comedy, to the overall performance.
How (Not) to Live in Suburbia achieves something most TED Talks can only dream of, it allows Annie Siddons to tell a very personal and emotive story, in a refreshing and thoroughly enlightening fashion, more engrossing than even the most attractive PowerPoint can achieve. The metaphorical nature of the production allows the audience to relate to the circumstances; to understand but not judge. This is a fantastic example of modern theatre and shows that even a smaller scale production can still have a huge impact on those who see it.