How (Not) to Live in Suburbia: therapy, not theatre

Tom Slater
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Annie Siddons’s (almost) one-woman show, How (Not) to Live in Suburbia, is as lacking in self-awareness as its title would suggest. The show is autobiographical, charting Siddons’s descent into crippling loneliness as she moves from south-east London – home of art, love and life – to leafy Twickenham – home of rugby and the loathed, non-urban middle classes.

With a hint of Russell Brand – long words, casual swearing, endless alliteration – her monologues paint suburban life as barren, hollow, inartistic. Interspersed film pieces lay the sneer on even thicker. At one point, she’s kicked out of her book group for having ‘too many opinions’, and suggesting they read David Foster Wallace rather than the WHSmith Top10.

Halfway through, the show morphs into something far more personal, as her crippling loneliness – embodied by a bloke in a walrus mask – intensifies, and she’s pushed to the brink. It’s affecting in its way. Siddons gives a confident, heartfelt performance, which is nothing if not sincere. But the show is more therapeutic than profound.

In part, How (Not) to Live in Suburbia is about battling writer’s block – with Siddons desperately trying to pen a play that will please both her prissy agent and her lofty ambitions. The show itself becomes a kind of absolution, the means through which she overcomes her creative and emotional impasse.

This is where Siddons really loses us. Art is about more than bald sincerity – about just laying out your view of the world or letting the audience in on your problems. This show is proof.

★★☆☆☆

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

How (Not) to Live in Suburbia is at Summerhall until 28 August.

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