Socialist Worker

Fuck the Polar Bears - a funny play about the planet that takes a swipe at the rich

Theatrically brilliant Fuck the Polar Bears gets across the claustrophobia of family life—but don’t pity the miserable rich, says Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2473

Tanya Ronder’s new play is based around a middle class family’s travails, the dangers of climate change and a toy polar bear. 

But with the help of a funny script and strong performances, it avoids being preachy or boring. 

Watching the opening scene, it isn’t obvious what Fuck the Polar Bears is about. Gordon (Andrew Whipp), who we later find out is a big shot energy boss, waltzes in with champagne and a stack of pizzas. 

Fitness freak wife Serena (Susan Stanley) is preoccupied with making sure he’s got the money together for their new place on the river in Hampton. Luckily, Gordon has just been offered a promotion worth £2.4 million. 

But they’re arguing almost immediately about different aspects of their “empty” lives. 

The play is theatrically brilliant, with the stage set up as their living room. 

It feels intrusive and mirrors how all the angst of their family life is trapped inside those four walls.

During the weekend they crack under the strain. 

The household appliances begin to malfunction—first Gordon’s phone, then his laptop, before he starts to imagine that the drains are blocked.

Breakdown

A spinning stage emphasises Gordon’s growing breakdown.

Throughout the play their daughter Rachel (Bella Anne Padden) is looking frantically for a toy polar bear that she is convinced is real. 

Gordon becomes convinced he can see the polar bear darting around the room.

In reality, it’s a hamster that their militant environmentalist Icelandic au pair Blundhilde (Salome R Gunnarsdottir) has freed. 

Everything comes to a head when Rachel appears dressed in her new polar bear suit.

His whole world spinning, Gordon chases the apparition of climate change around the room with a knife. 

The ending seems a bit anti-climactic, but remains open ended. 

When Serena explains that she hates their life Gordon replies, “It’s not easy having the Cabinet in your pocket,” and ponders going into renewables.

The unhappy rich? I don’t buy it. 

With his new-found environmental awareness, Gordon asks to turn out the lights. Rachel pleads, “But daddy, I don’t like it with the lights out.” But perhaps it’s a little too late for them.

Fuck the Polar Bears by Tanya Ronder. The Bush Theatre, London W12 8LJ. Until 24 October. bushtheatre.co.uk

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