Hannah Raymond-Cox paints worlds with her words in Polaris, a one-woman show navigating the North Star of queer culture, as well as her anxiety and relationship with food. Josephine Balfour-Oatts reviews:

Hannah Raymond-Cox deserves a bigger stage for Polaris, with audiences spread wide like eggs in a pan. Yolk and all.

The award-winning performance poet makes do at the tip-top of the Scottish Poetry Library, a cosy, hushed space on the fringes of the Festival. A single chair and wireless microphone are her only accessories, allowing for her words to become the sole focus of the spectator.

Polaris Scottish Poetry Library
Hannah Raymond-Cox

In Polaris, Raymond-Cox plays on the role of the North Star, merging its meaning with that of ‘Polari’, an English-based cant slang particular to the gay subculture in Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries – stolen conversation in London fish markets, the theatre and other performative venues. As many homosexual men worked in theatrical entertainment, the language provided protection at a time when such sexual activity was illegal.

Raymond-Cox navigates this history, walking the streets of Soho before landing in San Francisco. The narrative stretches across England and the U.S, with memories stuck through these locations like pins to a board.

Among other emotional traumas in Polaris, Raymond-Cox reveals the abuse at the hands of her stepfather, Mark – a Californian basketball player, he makes her jump through hoops. It is easy to spot the roots of her anxiety, her relationship with food acting as a tool to make and mend a broken home. But ‘home’ doesn’t translate to walls and warmth, nor a roof over her head.

Home means acceptance.

Polaris Scottish Poetry Library
Hannah Raymond-Cox

Learning to understand her bisexuality is also a landmark. She comes out to her mum and goes out a club, the last-minute addition of rainbow socks a desperate appeal to the gay community,

Do I look queer enough?

She stammers, stress catching hold as she casts and conducts the scenes around her. When her appetite dissipates, her hunger for life growls with a vengeance.

Hannah Raymond-Cox

Polaris is intelligent and top-full of poignancy, confirming Raymond-Cox to be a true wordsmith. The production is

A feminist call to arms, a reminder to embrace your quirks and to transgress.

A sign to feed and water your body.

A lesson in taking up space.

A gem, far-flung from the frenetic Scottish streets.

An event to treasure.


Polaris is now playing at the Scottish Poetry Library until 24 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.