WHAT IS the difference between a story and a lie? Ask Polarbear (real name Steven), raconteur extraordinaire. In this performance piece, making things up is the “best job in the world”. With just a few words, you can be transformed from a geek into a hero on a whim.
This is what Polarbear has been doing since he was 10 years old, when his father left and he was recruited to the Super League of Storytellers, which actually pays very well. Or that’s what he tells us anyway, although we are never quite sure if we can trust him.
Mouth Open, Story Jump Out is an interactive piece of storytelling for audiences of nine years old and up, who are encouraged to provide key details in the tale of origins that Polarbear narrates. The elements a story needs to be believable, he says, are the particulars of time and place, and the added frisson of whoever else is there.
With hands raised or using paper and pen, we are encouraged to put flesh on the characters in Polarbear’s story: dance-loving Dominic, bully-turned-best-friend Danny, karate-chopping Donna, the bearish Mr Bukowski, and, crucially, Polarbear’s missing dad. What does he look like? Where did he go? And, most importantly, does he ever come back?
We leave our suggestions on the messy living-room set, which he begins to pack-up as the performance draws to a conclusion, our scribblings, literally, becoming part of the fabric of the play.
At an early afternoon showing for schools, the audience were thoroughly invested in Polarbear’s tale, fighting over small details and full of questions at the end. One cheeky listener even asked if he could help get them out of homework, but Polarbear suggests a compromise: maybe their homework can have a storytelling theme. If his own adventures haven’t convinced them that it is worthwhile, nothing will.
– Sara Keating