Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Return at BAC
Return, a new piece of storytelling by Polarbear, is a tale of home and its hold on you.
Told in a straightforward, casual manner, eschewing elaborate verbal gymnastics, it takes the form of a spoken screenplay. Polarbear gives the audience a camera lens view of events as his main character Noah returns to the town he left behind.
Performed, without music, against a blue box of a background, he describes close ups, fade outs, establishing shots; he makes the story live visually. Occasionally lines of text or the red flicker of a digital clock will spill across the floors and walls, but the main tool used is his voice. As he explains, he comes from a place where people tell stories: they talk, they don’t write.
So Noah comes home to Birmingham after years away and finds the life he left to an extent unchanged. He bickers amiably with his brother; he bumps into an old school friend, now working in a supermarket. There is little in the way of narrative tension. He pisses off his mum over dinner and has a fleeting encounter with a girl he once had a thing for, but that’s about it. Instead the chief relationship being explored here is the one between Noah and the place that he comes to see has shaped him; the place he left behind in body, but never really left, not completely.
As he says, his work ever since has been "soaked in home." Though the story and its telling are intentionally lacking in flash, there is a strong awareness of the rhythms of natural speech, the way people talk to one another, the poetry of the ordinary and everyday. There is wit and humour too, plus a peppering of references to Steven Seagal movies, The Terminator and Reservoir Dogs. His descriptions are sharp and well-honed, not quite minimalist, but ungarnished, giving only what is necessary to create a potent picture. He describes a barmaid collecting "empty glasses and out of date compliments" and the "butterfly of blood" on a white shirt after a fight.
The hour-long show is a quietly compelling and bittersweet piece of story telling, though sometimes a clearer differentiation between characters would be welcome; the use of visuals also feels a little underdeveloped and it would have been nice to see them made more of.
Return is being performed as part of the BAC’s The Big Story, along with Jon Haynes' The Poof Downstairs and Little Bulb’s wonderful Sporadical, and on Thursdays, it will be performed in different spaces around the building.
Reviewed for musicOMH