Writer: H.P. Lovecraft
Adaptor: Micheal Sabbaton
Director: Sylvia Vickers
Reviewer: Holly Sharp
Written in 1918, Polaris is a partly autobiographical short story by acclaimed horror writer H.P Lovecraft. Inspired by one of many psychological nightmares and guilt-laden visions that plagued the war veteran in the years following the first world war, the original story is a tale of horror rooted in fragmented reality in an era pre-dating formal diagnosis and effective treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sadly, for an adaptation of a story inspired by the very real, very horrific depths of mental trauma, this show embodies the very worst scenario of a one-man show; plus one. while the choice of adaptation is ambitious, its delivery regretfully has all the subtlety of an airhorn in a morgue. Poor diction clouds the clarity of an already ambiguous piece, while a Southern American accent constituting a significant part of the dialogue is closer to comedy than that of a metaphor for a man’s very real psychological hell. Guised by such poor execution, it’s difficult to discern whether adapter and performer Michael Sabbaton’s writing skills match those of his performance, or whether a skilful adaptation has been butchered by the author’s own painful over-acting.
There’s no doubt that Sabbaton has a colourful and thorough vision of his intentions and meaning in bringing his adaptation to the stage. However, the acknowledgment that this is a true labour of love is what makes Polaris a piece that is all the more frustrating to sit through. while admittedly Sabbaton has had the foresight to work with director Sylvia Vickers, it feels as though the true depth and coherence of this adaptation has been stifled by having so little room to breathe outside of his own head.
It’s impossible not to appreciate the effort and energy that Sabbaton invests in his work, but sadly that’s not enough to save this show. Polaris is a painfully engaging and heartbreaking story, but you’d be much better off grabbing a copy of the original.
Reviewed on 31st October 2016