Polaris‘s pitch sounds baffling – a sci-fi feminist play about an astronaut in the future, two teenage girls in early 90s England, and a dinosaur called Val. And for the first few minutes it is baffling. And then Holly Norrington and Teddy Lamb do something extraordinary and make us go along with it all. It’s a bit mad and scattered. But Polaris is brilliant.
In the first of the three narratives, Tracy and Val are dinosaurs at odds. In the second, Aoife is an astronaut captaining an important space mission. And in the third, Sarah-Jane and Lou-Ann navigate the slut-shaming realities of Year 10. The through-line is the dismal progress of the treatment of women, in various ways, over the course of thousands of years. OK, the dinosaur segments of the show might be there more for comic analogy value than serious historical analysis and one or two of these scenes might outstay their welcome, but the message is beautifully clear. Norrington especially helps us feel the importance of the feminist concepts in her moving climactic scenes as Aoife the astronaut. Maybe some of the ideas are obvious or are already being discussed in many a Fringe show, but Polaris re-illuminates the outrageousness of misogyny and reminds us that there can never, surely, be enough shows about this.
It’s fairly clear that that this is theatre on a budget (hello, Edinburgh Fringe!), but the duo’s way of playing is invigorating. They employ glittery streamers, pink plastic party cups, and twinkling plant pots as if they were part of a West End theatre production. They also make strong use of mic effects and other wonderful foley work created in front of us with amps and an ingenious supply of unexpected instruments. This is all just background support for the stars, though. Norrington and Lamb are buoyant performers, engaging us throughout with well-rehearsed physical dynamics, animated expressions and great comedic timing. The script is littered with spot-on one-liners – delivered with particular panache by Lamb – and there are a couple of short, ethereal spoken poetry breaks that are simple enough, yet pull back the pace to create powerful impact and a space for reflection.
Polaris is a joyful gem of a show. It makes us laugh in all the right places and ties itself together with a key message, delivered with honesty and heart. Norrington and Lamb are talents to be watched.