Are you familiar with Lemony Snicket? Pen name of Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket is the fictional author of A Series of Unfortunate Events which I guess are kind of like the books you buy your younger children who like Harry Potter but have read all of Harry Potter and you want to keep that reading bug alive. These books chart the lives of siblings Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire and the, yes, unfortunate things that happen as they make their quest through this cruel world. Raymondo by Annie Siddons is in many ways what would happen if Kate Tempest and Lemony Snicket collided and fused in to one another.
Delivered in the bathetic tones of spoken word poetry by Siddons who is dressed like Amy Winehouse as painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, you expect this to be all achingly cool and grown-up, only it’s not and that’s where most of the enjoyment of this piece lies. There are, of course, the knowing referencing to ‘out kaling kale’, vaginal steaming and other celeb fads, but essentially this is a story of children – all with names that could have been written on a post-it that fell out of J. K. Rowling’s back pocket – and their journey from enslavement to freedom via more enslavement.
It’s impossible not to warm to Siddons, not just because she looks great, but also because she, like the sisterly characters in the story, exudes warmth. As a feat of performance, this is considerable with no pauses or obvious lines fluffed in a 70-minute, pretty much solo show. The ‘pretty much’ element comes from the presence of Tom Adams on stage who accompanies the story with an electric guitar score and the occasional ‘voice of Sparky’ interjection. More could have been made of this element as at times there seem to be too many voices coming out of Siddons alone and they can get jumbled together, the moments of interplay between Siddons and Adams suggest that having the dialogue performed by the both of them might make the performance stronger.
With the aforementioned references to superfoods and the over-riding narrative of child sweatshops and celebrity endorsement, it’s clear this is a story drawing on contemporary life. Yet simultaneously with it’s Dickensian workhouse ethics and Hard Knock Life characters, its also feels antiquated. In his gloomier moments, my step-father often says that to understand modern Britain you have to understand that its exactly like Victorian or Edwardian Britain, with a rich elite standing on the necks of the impoverished masses. Raymondo reminded me of the same idea. This is a story that could have been written as an allegory in the 1890s, but instead it was written in 2015 and that is more than an unfortunate turn of events.