The Theatreguide.London Review
The Polar Bears
Bush Theatre Autumn 2015
Tanya Ronder's new play is clearly an earnest and sincere attempt to address a serious subject. But it is pasted together so seemingly randomly as to be all but incoherent.
An energy company executive and his wife are looking forward to a big promotion for him and a move to a big and beautiful new house. There are only a very few very minor shadows in their lives.
The man is uncomfortable in the presence of his ex-druggie brother, who they've hired to paint the house they're moving out of (why?). The Icelandic (why?) bisexual (why?) au pair is a bit of a nag on environmental issues, scolding them for things like using the dryer rather than the clothesline.
And their daughter's favourite toy, a stuffed polar bear, has gone missing.
Ronder takes her time establishing the situation, and it is halfway through the ninety-minute play before anything resembling a plot appears.
In the midst of bubbling about what a lovely day she's having, the wife suddenly announces that she is deeply unhappy about everything – her life, her marriage, her husband, her weight, and the fact that she's not as supple as the younger women in her yoga class.
Her husband takes this moment to have a mental breakdown, not because of what she's said, but because a string of small accidents convinces him that the missing teddy bear has come alive to maliciously torment him.
And when the others have calmed him down, the au pair suddenly shifts modes from mildly idealistic to radically activist, berating them all for abusing the earth's resources, and tipping out the contents of the rubbish bin to demonstrate the evils of not separating and recycling garbage.
They fire her, of course, but then the husband and wife spend the final ten minutes of the play seriously discussing ecological issues and their moral obligation to downsize, turn off lights and change their entire way of life – before then, in the final moments, rationalising their way back to the conviction that it would really be right for them to take the big house, make lots of money and go on living the good life.
I've uncharacteristically devoted this review to a simple summary of the action, because there really isn't anything else to the play.
Neither the playwright nor director Caroline Byrne takes a stand on any of this – you might, for example, have sensed a hint of irony or satire in my bald telling of the story, but I assure you there is none in the production.
Everything just happens, in the same affectless and unjudged manner, and with no logical connection between any one event and what comes before and after. The actors – no need to name and embarrass – try to pretend they're playing real characters, but have far too little to work with.
Review - Fuck The Polar Bears - Bush Theatre 2015
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