Polaris ****

52 Canoes (Venue 366)

Spoken Word (LGBT, Solo Show)

Aug 14-16, 18-23, 25-28 (50 minutes)

times vary

In an early sequence of “Polaris”, Hannah Raymond-Cox slouches in a chair on stage left. She is remembering moving to the UK, and playing never-have-I-ever with her fellow classmates. The conversation is reenacted by Raymond-Cox, switching between the effervescent ‘like, never have I ever given a blowjob’ of her classmates, and her own sullen spectatorship. ‘It turns out,’ Raymond-Cox shrugs, ‘I was the only one who drank to “never have I ever masturbated.”’

Taking its title from both the Pole Star and Polari, the gay slang language, “Polaris” is the autobiographical story of a queer girl in search of belonging. The story moves between Raymond-Cox’s life in San Francisco and London, her coming out as bisexual, and her wandering desire to make home.

This loose narrative is aided immensely by Raymond-Cox’s talents both as a poet and performer. Her script is concise and well considered, without sacrificing an obvious ear for lyricism; the paranoia about attending a gay club is excellently summarised by “I was too… lipstick.” Adding to this is a clear theatrical direction from Sophia Walker, utilising the talents of inflection, accent, and posture so obviously demonstrated by Raymond-Cox.

Most notable is the warmth that permeates “Polaris”. Raymond-Cox is an endearingly sincere storyteller, with evident talent refined by technique. Her facial expressions are subtle, but well placed, and her impression of Ru Paul’s “If you can’t love yourself…” is executed with a gleeful campness. As such, it was a pity that the single lightsource of the 52 Canoes stage caused Raymond-Cox’s face to be obscured in darkness when addressing the left side of the audience. The production values of the Scottish Storytelling Centre would be a welcome space for “Polaris” in future Fringe runs.

“Polaris” is one of the finer examples of spoken word storytelling on the PBH Free Fringe. It is at times heavy with remembered trauma, while crafted with a light and deft touch. This is not one to miss.

Freddie Alexander