What does it mean to be a transient person? To feel truly placeless in a world where place is becoming more and more of what defines a person. I can’t imagine a world in which place wasn’t a major part of what made a person themselves, because where I’m from is so essential to who I am. And yet Polaris, written and performed by Hannah Raymond-Cox, is about that feeling exactly. It’s about living in a place, but not being from there. It’s about being without identity, and trying to find one to fill that gap. And it’s about one woman and her greatest love of all: Food.
The first, and arguably most important part of this story is that is to some extent-autobiographical. While Raymond-Cox doesn’t mark it as such, a lot of this play is inspired by her own life, as she’s lived all across the globe. “I gave my first draft to my director who promptly reached into my ribcage, Indiana-jones style, and ripped out my heart,” she said in response to her drafting process. This level of personal-storytelling always can lead to a melodramatic slog through someone’s life, but that isn’t Raymond-Cox’s goal, nor is it even her intent when she was writing. “I found… this story about comfort in nearly everything I write and then took a foodie obsession to its absolute limits.” And that focus on understanding comfort and place is clear in the choice to stage the play in Aikman’s bar, somewhere she describes as “The only place welcoming and large enough to tell this big a story.”
The setting in Aikman’s isn’t just a way to bring the idea of questioning comfort to the forefront, it’s also a direct link to the show’s medium: Slam Poetry. Raymond-Cox, an award-winning slam poet, sees this play as a way to meld her two major artistic interests: Theatre and Slam. “I took my slam stuff as a starting point,” she says, noting that “Polaris uses rhythm and rhyme to tell one hell of a truth that cannot be expressed exclusively in either medium.” As someone coming from the world of theatre primarily, the idea of a piece which uses the language of slam to tell an intimate, dramatic story is something that’s as clever as it is intriguing. But this goal is as much for other poets as it is for herself. Raymond-Cox sees herself as a trailblazer, trying to pave the way for more shows like Polaris to come in her wake. “In the past, we’ve had pound poems, slams, and open mics, but no long form spoken word experiences. Polaris changes that.”
At the end of the day, Polaris is trying to make you feel something. It wants you to engage with its story on an intimate, truly personal level. It wants you to look at its performer and see a near-perfect image of her world for at least a fragment of a second. “I had a goal,” Raymond-Cox says, “I wanted the audience to experience like at least 3 deadly sins along with me in the show. If you leave hungry or sad or like…. That feeling of immediate post-thunderstorm ozone, I’ve done my writing job.” Polaris is ambitious no doubt, but its author seems infinitely determined to better even her highest expectations. She says the show she originally wrote has gone through so many iterations that what she originally wrote might be a completely different story to what you see on the stage. “It’s been an intense experience, which I really couldn’t have done without my incredibly supportive team,” she says when asked how she managed this with the rest of her commitment load. Her team, which includes St Andrews’ most prolific Technician, Grace Cowie, and award winning slam poet and teaching artist Sophia Walker, seems up to the task. All that’s left now are the performances. And Raymond-Cox is more than ready for them.
Polaris is going up on on the 31st of march and the 1st of April.