How (Not) To Live In Suburbia

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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How (Not) to Live in Suburbia
Published 13 Aug 2016

Twickenham, home of Rugby. And rolling fields. And men in ironed polo shirts, and very posh dogs. And, more incongruously, Annie Siddons, who's a writer, performer and mother of two children. She's been stranded in suburbia after her divorce, and although her kids are happy, she definitely isn't. In a heartbreaking autobiographical performance, Siddons explores what it's like to feel like a blot on this green suburban landscape.

Projected footage takes us on a guided tour through mock-Tudor mansions, little England tea parties and flag-decked pubs. Filmed sketches show her cavorting in the park in a deer costume, yawning her way through a hetero-normative baby singing session, and getting evicted from a book group. It could all be a bit clichéd, a cooler-than-thou artist poking fun at a conformist Stepford community. But Siddons is self-aware enough to mock her own obsession with the hallowed New Cross, home of creativity and rubbish-strewn streets.

And she's far harsher on herself than she is on her pearl-clutching neighbours. Her loneliness is represented by a heavy-breathing walrus in a hoodie, who follows her as she slips into desperation. At her lowest moments, she can't believe she's even allowed to look after own her children. "Why aren't ladies with clipboards coming to take them away?"

During Annie's disastrous nights out and even sadder nights in, she's portrayed by Adam Robertson, dragged up in a ginger wig and dress. It's a slightly uncomfortable decision, his campy performance distancing both us and Siddons from her pain. But it doesn't detract from the emotional heft of her story. What comes across most strongly is loneliness, and the toxic companionship it offers when everyone else has gone.