On Saturday night, Hannah Raymond-Cox performed her second and final slam-style recital, Polaris, one of the opening events for 2017’s edition of the student-run On The Rocks Festival. In what was a deeply personal story of family, friends, and sexuality, the St Andrews student tugged at the heartstrings of a packed Aikman’s Cellar as she strode amidst her audience, beverage in hand, and began her story. Drawing on an admitted love of theatre- the show has been billed as one-woman play- Ms. Raymond-Cox embarked upon her story, her last five years in five scenes, each of varying locale, from San Francisco to English boarding school, and assorted dramatis personae, from step-father to “best guy friend”.
Plaudits are deserved for the sincere frankness with which the various episodes were sketched out- her coming out to a disbelieving mother especially, as well as the cruel taunts of classmates for her sexual openness on arrival at public school. Ms. Raymond-Cox showed her gift for timing and capricious tone- one moment the audience in convulsions at RuPaul impressions before the darkness of lonely Christmas holidays in London.
As an interview to preview the show with the Saint reveals, last year she won Stanza, one of Scotland’s biggest poetry festivals, and performed at the Royal Albert Hall in January. No worries then about a space as comparatively minute as the town beer-nerds’ favourite haunt! And suitably, this was spoken word at its most conversational, directly addressing members of her audience at exceedingly close distances (for my liking anyway), unceasingly standing and sitting, endlessly crouching and leaning – a physical fifty minutes of sudden gesticulating and rapid pacing.
The title of this one-woman production, as explained in the show itself, comes from the language Polari, a deceptive slang of immigrants and lower classes in London before its adoption as a cover tongue for the thriving but repressed gay subculture that emerged in the 19th century and endured until decriminalisation. ‘Queerness’ is a major trope throughout but, just as instrumental (and more impressively handled) within the script, is the topic of mental health and Ms. Raymond-Cox’s personal struggles with depression. Her examination of this side of adolescent years seemed far more genuine and endearing- less overdone and sensationalised than her reminiscences regarding orientation. It was, as a whole though, an ultimately positive and eye-opening rendering of what it is to be a ‘millennial’ and the issues that the term encumbers.