We’re all presented with a blank canvas in our life, a blank sheet to create our own story, with the opportunity to build and form our life narrative. Dark Corners presents the story of 13-year-old Polarbear, his quest for love, and the trials and tribulations faced with being a teenager in a difficult world.
The performance starts as you walk into the library room at the Battersea Arts centre. The audience are greeted by a jovial and energetic Polarbear, who immediately warns us of stepping on the curiously large piece of square paper in the middle of the room. Design by Bethany Wells is meticulously placed. Paper is taped down, surrounded by chairs grouped into four, with individual markers underneath each one. The audience are immediately faced with a decision of where to sit and what that might mean to the production.
Audience participation is quite part of Dark Corners and Polarbear’s story; incorporating song suggestions in building characters, voice recordings, and general content creation through different methods. It was effective in creating energy in a partially deflated Friday audience. But there was potential to include them more to be more direct toward individual members when asking questions, and to give more time in reading lines, as parts felt rushed and hectic. Once the audience warmed up, they were more forthcoming and invested in the story. The whole concept was innovative and it was mentioned that it was designed for youth groups, which I could see working a lot better with a banter filled room of teenagers.
Polarbear (a.k.a Steven Camden) is an attentive and detailed spoken word performer, using carefully selected words and rhythms in the story of Polarbear’s teenage angst. He has an ability to captivate the audience by exposing teenage vulnerability through words and physicality. The story flowed and developed seamlessly with the incorporation of tape players, lights, paint bombs, and markers. There were some elements that seemed scatty and faltered, but these could easily be part of teenage life and purposely done, which makes it even more authentic.
Dark Corners was a charming story, showing that being unkind to people can have a huge impact on their lives. The overall moral element that Camden has created is more targeted at a younger audience, but all the while enjoyable.
Dark Corners runs at the Battersea Arts Centre as part of Homegrown Festival until 22 April.