Holly & Ted’s Polaris opens with a slow explanation of the characters the two actors will be playing, frustratingly broken up by the use of a tablet to control an impressive soundscape. From the off, it becomes clear that this is going to be one of the more unique shows at this year’s Fringe, as the performers jump between three timelines set 75 million years apart.

Some excellent creative choices do not make up for a script that neither fully satirises the issues at play

One of these timelines takes place in the year 2096, where spacecraft captain Aoife struggles against the masculine ego of one of her crew. The scenes here are the most overt in their exploration of the show’s themes – feminism as defined by a negative male presence. The actors, Holly Norrington and Teddy Lamb, give slightly caricatured performances for each of the many roles they play, but it works for the style of the piece. The sounds created live on stage are excellent and extremely fitting, but never used to their full potential.

Jumping back to the Jurassic era, the two play dinosaurs, a T-Rex and a Velociraptor, trying to co-exist in a small village. There is comedy to be mined from the physicality of the roles; ignoring this, it feels a little disappointing. And although the stage design is intelligently used, it is not helped by the fact that Holly and Ted appear to switch roles multiple times over the course of this plotline, confusing things to no end.

Perhaps the most relevant, or accessible, of the three timelines is that of Sarah-Jane and Lou-Ann, two Year Ten schoolgirls experiencing drinking, parties and the consequences of kissing boys for the first time. This is familiar ground; friends falling out over a shared crush and said boy acting insensitively brash to play to his supporters. But just as in the other scenes, there is little that is groundbreaking here. There is a pivotal use of Autotune to outline the differences between the way a boy and girl are spoken about after getting together, but that difference is too obvious to be insightful.

Polaris points out a great many wrongs still existing within the social structures of today’s society. But Holly & Ted’s production does so without considering the originality or nuance of the point they are making, without offering solutions to the problems outlined. Occasionally the writing makes an astute observation: “He loves his wife, his two daughters, and his mum, so he must be a feminist, right?”. But most of the time is spent regurgitating things we all know, or should know, and have heard or seen in better, more self aware productions before now. Beneath all of the whimsy, there is merely a sense of pessimism that in 78 years time, we will still live in a toxically masculine society. Some excellent creative choices do not make up for a script that neither fully satirises the issues at play, nor believes that there is any way to solve them.

Reviews by Beverly Sproats

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The Blurb

Join Holly and Ted on a fantastical adventure through time and space. Tracy and Val are dinosaurs from different cultures. Aoife is a female astronaut leading a crew of distrusting males. Sarah-Jane and Lou-Ann are two teenage girls just trying to survive Year 10. Polaris explores the normalisation of hatred, toxic masculinity and the violence of language through imagined worlds and beguiling soundscapes that the performers create live on stage. 'Joyfully ingenious' (Stage). 'Fantastic ingenuity... exuberant and engaging storytelling' (GrumpyGayCritic.wordpress.com).

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