Annie Siddons takes an unconventional look at what it really means to be lonely, in this funny, frank, and frequently sweary autobiographical show. This is also a multimedia tale of a streetwise wide-girl, gone native in middle-class suburbia. Welcome to THOR! (That’s Twickenham, Home Of Rugby.)
Written and performed by Siddons, the show takes us back in time to the chaos of life post-divorce. Siddons’ new situation exposes her to the horrors of living in suburban Twickenham, an existence which stands in sharp contrast to her previously bohemian life in central London. She tries desperately to fit in with her surroundings by joining a book group and attending a dinner party, but it’s all to no avail.
Soon she is dogged by an unwanted sea-mammal by her side, the “walrus of loneliness”, as she desperately tries to survive as a single parent in an unfamiliar territory. Throughout all this, there are lively video reconstructions, which feature not only Siddons but also the aforementioned walrus.
It’s an interesting piece, with an original take on a serious subject. Siddons goes out of her way to help the audience to understand what loneliness really feels like, and works hard to make everything accessible through humour; the abrasive walrus puts a funny slant on mental health issues yet really hammers home the exhausting and oppressive nature of being alone. One additional unexpected highlight was the depiction of her kids in the short films – they appear as olive trees to reflect their Mediterranean heritage, cueing lots of shots of Siddons tucking the trees up in bed and bathing them.
Sometimes the tone was a bit too unapologetically immature for my taste, but overall the mixture of film, live performance and supporting cast worked well. There’s also a lot of what prudes might deem to be oversharing, including an exploit involving a charity fundraiser on a pub terrace – you have been warned.
How (Not) to Live in Suburbia is a rewarding watch, particularly for those who like a gritty urban style (but not rugby). Beneath all the humour, many single parents will find a lot to identify with – as will anyone who’s been exiled from the centre of London to Zone 5.