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Review: HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA, Soho Theatre

Annie Siddons is a London-based playwright and performer. But, more importantly, she is a survivor.

Having suffered from extreme loneliness after a "shit storm" of events, this autobiographical show takes us on a journey explaining the reasons why. How (Not) To Live In Suburbia is a joyful and poignant reminder of those friends who are forgotten about when they move too far away.

Siddons loves London, calling the city "a place of convention and anarchy." It is her "sartorially daring BFF", but when she finds herself accidentally living in Twickenham, or "THOR", things start to spiral out of control. Siddons uses a walrus as her analogy for loneliness: a creature that sucks out all nourishment, leaving her severely isolated.

Standing there and simply speaking to the audience, Siddons commands full attention. She informs us of everything she has done in an attempt to broaden her social circle. Whether it be dating, joining a book club or going to a toddler daycare, nothing has gone to plan, though these anecdotes do err on the side of optimism.

At times Siddons seems too rehearsed, but as the show goes on she relaxes into the performance, and despite a few line slip-ups, she remains focused. If anything her nerves add to the performance, highlighting the importance of what she's saying.

Cleverly made films aid the narrative, and director Richard DeDomenici is to be commending for always ensuring that they are just as humorous as the stage action. Siddons has smartly intertwined digital media into her show, so it's never obtrusive, but always complementary to her aims.

Nicki Hobday plays a younger Siddons. Speaking satirically into a dictaphone, she logs her life ambitions, calling it a manifesto. When performing drunk, she acts effectively as an over-the-top, comedic mess. Resembling somewhat Edina of Absolutely Fabulous, Hobday's outfit is extravagantly put together, supporting Siddons' claim that she is a woman of fluid boundaries.

As an audience hearing the story, we are told not to attempt to fix or give advice, but instead to simply listen as if we were some form of auditory hub. Informing us that winning takes time, Siddons asks the audience to consider their dark features and then to address them, otherwise they'll be getting their own visit from the walrus.

This is one of those pieces that you leave feeling genuinely moved. The show is not only sweet, but an important reminder that there are people out there who may seem fine, but who are actually suffering. In today's culture, where we're told to always put on a brave face, it is refreshing to see an artist have the strength to reveal their struggle.

How (Not) To Live In Suburbia at Soho Theatre until 2 September

Photo Credit: Annie Siddons

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