Saturday, 11 June 2016

How not to Live in Dramaturgy: Annie Siddons @ Edfringe 2016

Annie Siddons presents:

How (not) to Live in Suburbia

Annie Siddons takes a look at the time in her
credit Nicki Hobday
life when she found herself – performance maker, part Greek, part Egyptian, full Londoner – as a single mum living in the nuclear family haven of curtain-twitching Twickenham. Through performance and surreal film, she recalls her gauche attempts to fit in with the yummy mummies who run triathlons and the families that row and cycle at weekends in the most married place in London.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was extremely lonely. It was very painful and embarrrassing. I realised that I couldn’t be the only person who was and I wanted to talk about it, as it’s an extremely difficult thing to talk about. I needed to do it for myself as it was the driving force in my life at the time, and I wanted to do it for other people . 

Also, I’ve been trying to lessen the gap between me and audiences over the past few years. 4 years ago I hadn’t performed in a show for a long time. Then I made my first solo show, Raymondo, which was spoken word and had an intimate feel but was in a magic realist idiom, which I think gulled some people into thinking it wasn’t about anything in particular. Which was not in any sense true. Not everyone thought that, but some people did. 

So with this show I want to lessen the gap between me and audiences even more.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I’d been in Edinburgh in 2014 on Escalator East to Edinburgh, and happened to meet a whole smorgasbord of brilliant, interesting and provocative people, such as Richard de Domenici, Anthony Roberts, Jen Smethurst and Nicki Hobday. Then I wanted to continue working with some trusty collaborators that I already had, Justin, Andy and Adam.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I always have been, from as long as I can remember. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
No. I tend to be quite hasty, I spend long fallow times gathering stuff and myself and then I tend to make things in quite a quick splurge. But with this, because we had films in it, and because I was working with Richard, who is very busy, the process was protracted and bitty and we didn’t find the live show till quite late in it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I want them to feel less alone, to feel understood. Or if they know someone lonely not to judge them so harshly. And in the experience I want them to laugh, be moved, and enjoy the craft of the storytelling, performance, and films.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Hmmmmmmmmm. We’re still working on this one. I love dark work, and there’s a massive difference between dark work that is somehow responsible, owning its own shit, and being a grown up, and dark work that is leaky and weird and not doing those things. And I wanted to talk about difficult things openly and honestly without making audiences feel like shit. 

And so we’ve experimented with the form of the show in order to maximise that. Also, in a show about connection, we had to go down the route of exploring involving audiences in the actual physical show and in the films, but it transpires that I have a very particular set of rules around that, for myself as a performer – you have to really earn it, or be extremely skilled and charming like Jamie Wood, and so we’ve ended up not doing that. 

There was a moment where we considered working with local communities for part two of the show. I bought a van and I was going to set it up as a living room where my neighbours, whom I don't know, and me, could hang out and get to know each other. But my teenage daughters put a moratorium on that, and I was secretly relieved.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Well, I’ve been working as a playwright for the past 14 years, and it’s only in the past 3 years that I’ve started making my own performance again. There’s always going to be a strong written element in my work as that’s the way I negotiate myself and the world. Same with music. 

I had a very isolated Victorian childhood reading books and gaining musical accomplishments, so those things are hard wired into me. Sometimes the tradition you end up in is based on the venues that want to programme you, so sometimes these categories can be a bit arbitrary. But it’s something like experimental theatre slash new writing, with a jus of live art, a side salad of spoken word and some stand up comedy fries. 

But to be honest, I have never woken up in the morning and thought about a tradition of work. I have people who inspire me, whom I adore, and I’ve had a patchy training of different things, and I go through phases with work. I’m still figuring it all out.

Summerhall, Anatomy Lecture Theatre, 3 – 29 Aug 2016 (not 10 & 15 & 22), 4.50pm (6pm)

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