Surprise! is an utter gem of a show. In turns humorous and heart-breaking, Lauren Silver guides us through her life and experiences as someone suffering from extreme bouts of anxiety – managing to both make an audience actually realize what life is like with an anxiety disorder and yet keeping a friendliness and lightness of touch that extends way beyond the usual ‘stand-up’ persona.
We’re at a party. We know we’re at a party, we’ve been given shiny party hats at the door, there’s a gold glitter curtain onstage and Silver takes in upon herself to remind us of this fact every ten minutes. But this is no ordinary party, no, this is part of Silver’s way of facing her anxieties related to social interaction, surprises and death.
Silver is utterly, wonderfully natural onstage. So often with standup shows there’s a very strong whiff of a ‘persona’, a character carefully curated to get the correct response out of the audience, that charms and placates but doesn’t seem necessarily ‘real’. In Surprise!, however, Silver really does seem to bare her soul and fears to the audience in a way that is simultaneously hugely empowering and deeply, deeply funny. A member of the audience is chosen as a stand-in therapist, given a bag full of baby wipes, tissues and biscuits just in case something goes wrong during the show. Three audience members are given party cannons and instructed to let off at any point to acclimatize Silver to the idea of a ‘surprise; we’re invited onstage to be the voice of her amygdala, which apparently gets very overexcited when it senses a perceived threat.
Anxiety is something we’re all aware of and is yet so often passed off as ‘overreacting’ or simply a symptom that isn’t really talked about. What was so wonderful about Silver’s performance was her genuine determination to make the room of people understand what it was like to live with the affliction, not simply to make jokes about it. In creating such a warm and genuinely moving piece and allowing us to be part of her world for an hour, there is a proper sense of connection in the space which travels with you back home. It’s quiet, casual, intensely witty and Silver is so grand I just want her to be my friend. Stunning.