For one week only at Battersea Arts Centre, spoken word artist Polarbear, aka Steven Camden , is reviving his original show with If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me. It is, as I learnt from Twitter, “a completely stripped down version of the first hour long monologue [he] ever wrote 8 years ago”, which, he also says, is “kinda fun”, and I have to say I agree.
If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me is about David, a 28-year-old man stuck in a dull, dead-end job and a 10-year-old boy turned private detective who is looking for some answers. It is, we can assume, at least semi-autobiographical, but from which character is less clear.
We get a whirlwind picture of David’s childhood, growing up with his two best friends, which makes you feel very nostalgic; whether it is about your own childhood or his. Having got the girl – childhood sweetheart Jessica – David seems happy in everything except his job, which is excruciatingly soul-destroying, a “grey day dream that takes time and gives money”.
I’m not someone who’s ever been hugely enamoured by spoken word. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just wasn’t that fussed. However watching this, it all fell into place. Who’d have thought that one man standing in a room with basically no set and minimalist lighting could be more moving than any of the full-blown, all the stops productions I’ve seen. Yet, you can see why it is so stripped down – anything else would just get in the way.
There’s a moment which touches upon that question (one I don’t know if we’ve all thought about, or if it’s just me): what would your younger self think of you if they saw you now? What would you look like through a more innocent and idealistic version of your own eyes? I’ll stop now for fear of spoilers, but the show twists and turns and leaves you guessing right to the end.
Camden’s performance when speaking as the boy is something to be noted. Where so many actors make you cringe in putting on childlike voices and over-pronounced actions, here you felt the innocence through the words instead of an over-egged act.
The show is just perfect for Battersea Arts Centre, where the beautiful building fits the beautiful words. If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me is charming, witty and refreshingly clever.
If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me is playing at Battersea Arts Centre until 21 February. For more information and tickets, see the Battersea Arts Centre website.