I booked for this play with interest, having thoroughly enjoyed Tanya Ronder’s Table at the National a while back, hoping that Fuck the Polar Bears would be of the same standard. The Bush Theatre is known for its commitment to new plays, which I don’t see nearly enough of, so I was looking forward to this.
It’s the story of a privileged family forced to face up to environmental issues: husband Gordon is about to be made CEO of an energy firm, wife Serena wants to move to a bigger house, the live-in au pair Blundhilde is obsessed with green issues and daughter Rachel has lost her toy polar bear.
Rarely have I seen such unlikeable characters in a play. With the exception of the young child, whose feelings for her missing toy are commendable, and Gordon’s brother Clarence, a recovering drug addict who is repaying his brother’s assistance by painting his house, they are the most unpleasant bunch of people I have ever had the misfortune to see on stage. Blundhilde is overbearing and humourless, Gordon treats his brother with contempt and Serena is self-obsessed and whiny. I honestly couldn’t bring myself to care whether Gordon and Serena would be able to afford to move from their multi-million pound mansion to an even grander multi-million pound mansion, nor was I concerned whether they’d be swallowed up by the environmental apocalypse.
The play does broach some of the important issues regarding the environment – the temptation to ignore the crisis and carry on as normal. However, it only examines them in a superficial way, during the last ten minutes or so of the play. The earlier part of the work largely involves Gordon becoming increasingly convinced that Phoebe, the missing toy polar bear, has come to life and is stalking him – this sounds funny, but unfortunately isn’t.
I loved Chiara Stephenson’s set, which framed the house and set the scene for the effects and the explosions. Unfortunately, however, the play left me cold – as cold as the polar bears before their habitat succumbs to global warming.