Lori Hamilton's retelling of her eventful life is touching and amusing, despite the whirlwind pacing.
An astonishing story
The eldest of six children, Hamilton felt neglected and unloved by her parents. We get to meet her as a child, her natural curiosity and playfulness subdued by a necessity to be 'good'. This people pleasing persona becomes an essential survival technique, but one which over time harms her opportunities, relationships, and mental health. If this sounds like a misery memoir, morosely dwelling on the worst in life, you'd be wrong. Instead, it's a reflective and uplfiting piece that simply never shys away from describing dark times.
A one-woman show – particularly one that runs for over an hour – is an exhausting task. Thankfully Hamilton has energy for days and charisma in spades; time spent with her never drags. Her obvious vocal talent shines through best in the arias, which she performs with aplomb. One scene, performed in operatic style, where she is overwhelmed by her workload is very darkly funny indeed. However, many of the songs appear out of nowhere, and feel like a distraction rather than an addition. In fact, although Hamilton's bravery and honesty in tackling this on stage personal memoir is evident, it still feel as though certain doors are left closed. We are rushed through so many events in her life that there isn't much time to scratch beneath the surface, and plenty of questions are left unanswered. How did she really feel when she lost the job she'd centred her life around? The one where she said she'd built a family like she'd always longed for. How did she manage to pay for her tuition in the end? Skimming over bombshells and flicking between feels disjointed. What she chooses to share is her choice, but we are left wanting something a little deeper than this frenetic recount of event after event.
Alongside herself, Hamilton also occasionally becomes other characters, including a guardian angel that is also the embodiment of her gut instinct. Once in character, the guardian angel adds some welcome levity with some of the best jokes of the show, but the transitions felt clunky. The use of suitcases as a set was better chosen, as they represented both metaphorically and literally a life defined by transience and allowed Lori to deftly build new spaces around her in seconds.
Overall, North Star is an astonishing story that shows the power of tenacity and self belief as tools to help overcome adversity. We may never get to really truly know the 'real' Lori Hamilton, but it's an honour to spend time with her.