Polari is a secret queer language, historically devised and spoken by gay men to conceal their sexuality during times of illegality in the UK and abroad. The language takes elements of English, Italian, Cockney and various other dialects to create an exclusive method of communication. Polari is the starting point for this spoken word theatre show from poet and performer Hannah Raymond-Cox.

Polaris takes place on the mezzanine level of the Scottish Poetry Library. This venue feels like an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the Edinburgh Fringe and is the perfect location to stage an honest and expressive show such as Polaris.  

During the show we are taken through various stages of the performer’s life. This includes early teenage years in San Francisco where the poet discovered RuPaul, Polari and took their first steps in understanding their own queer identity. Sexuality and mental health are the main topics of the show and are tackled with warmth and poise. With this approach the audience can indulge themselves in the language and be taken on a journey. Throughout Polaris we are definitely in safe hands and encounter poetry on food, travel and identity.

Later in the performance we are taken to Soho in London and a lesbian night club called Ruby Tuesdays. Here we are exposed to Raymond-Cox’s anxieties. The common fear of not being queer enough in an openly gay space is expressed through cautious words that anyone will be able to relate to, regardless of their sexual orientation. Here the performer expresses their ability to connect with an audience and use spoken word as a means to draw empathy and optimism.

With the initial reference to Polari, and the show being spoken word, it seemed like a missed opportunity not to present some of the Polari  language during the perofmrance. However, there is still enough engaging words and heartfelt poetry in Polaris to keep an audience entertained and enthralled for 50 minutes.