phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Advertisement
Helen Murray

Tanya Ronder on her new play F*** The Polar Bears

25 September 2015 Imogen Greenberg

F*** The Polar Bears is a new play at the Bush Theatre from acclaimed playwright Tanya Ronder. In recent years, she’s gained a stellar reputation, not just for her original writing, but for phenomenal adaptations too, including Liola and Dara at The National Theatre. London Calling caught up with her to discuss the inspiration for her new play, getting to grips with global warming through theatre, and the struggles of playwriting.

London Calling: What inspired your new play F*** The Polar Bears?

Tanya Ronder: I saw a photo of one of those big energy bosses in a newspaper, which printed the amount his bonus was that year. I felt my own bile and anger rise about the amounts of money those blokes take home. I thought I need to write in to this and you know, he’s probably got kids and a wife or a partner, and I need to get inside his home and try and understand who these people are, rather than just judging them.

LC: Why did you want to tell a family story particularly?

TR: I think the issues around global warming are so difficult to speak about, to even think about, and for any of us to deal with. I suppose what I think is that all of us know it’s happening and none of us are really dealing with it, or very few of us are. So I wanted it to become a story about all of us and about all of our inability to face it, and stop our lifestyle in order to decrease the amount of energy we’re burning communally. I wanted to have as few facts as I possibly could in there, because I’m the first person to switch off when I go and see a play about that stuff. So to write a play about how we all switch off on these issues was a real challenge! There’s enough in there for it to penetrate, hopefully, but not so much that we switch off listening to it, and say I don’t want to hear this. So it tries to get underneath, and really it’s about the characters, and the domestic scenario and there’s a lot of humour and life between those people. But the background is very much the world they’re living in and dealing with, and it’s a world that’s heating up way too fast.

LC: The play is described as being about the power of the individual in a world obscured by politics. Are the characters victims of that world or part of it?

TR: In some ways the power of the individual is that we can all go round saying and thinking that we’re victims of this horrible corporate world, the evil bastards that put us through this and make us powerless against it. But actually who are the evil bastards and are we not all evil bastards ourselves? Actually, there isn’t some great super power making us do this, it’s like all of us have forgotten that we can and should be the parents in the scenario, all of us are thinking we’re the children and the global corporations or the governments or the energy companies are the ones doing this to us. But everybody is thinking that, so who are the grown ups, who are standing up and saying this actually has to stop? We all have to take action, all of us, together, now. Well, yesterday, and the day before yesterday.

LC: Do you think comedy is a particularly good medium through which to tackle bigger issues?

TR: It’s an odd medium! It’s an odd play. It is, and I’ve known that since starting it. It’s a really odd tone that it treads, because it flips all the time between comedy and the very serious issues that these guys are grappling with. It’s an experiment really, in terms of whether it’s a good medium. But I certainly didn’t want to write an earnest play about it! It is a really difficult subject to write about. Katie Mitchell’s show last year about it at the Royal Court, 2071, was literally a scientist on stage giving a lecture about it. She must have approached it and decided that was the best thing to do, because it is really hard to talk about.

LC: What do you think audiences will take away from the play?

TR: I think they’ll respond to the characters. I think they’re a really interesting and lively set of characters, I hope. I think beyond that, people will take different things from it. It’s in the round, so you literally have a different perspective on the show depending on where you’re sitting. I think people will feel more drawn to one character or another. I think Gordon, the boss, comes out as quite a sympathetic character, which was interesting for me because as I said, that was a trigger for me, my sort of instinctive hatred of this man I had never met. So it’s really interesting that he’s ended up as quite a likeable man at the centre of it!

LC: Your last couple of plays at the National – Liola and Dara – have been adaptations. How different is the creative process, and which do you find more rewarding, original writing or adaptations?

TR: It is quite different. I feel really much more comfortable with adaptations because there’s some form of road map. There’s a safety in that. I came to writing really late, actually, and original writing even later. But in terms of what’s most rewarding, I think probably the original stuff. It’s definitely harder, lonelier and more challenging. I’ve never been good with a blank page, right the way back from childhood! So it’s really hard to do but I think it is more rewarding.

LC: How did you first get in to playwriting?

TR: I was an actress, and started writing as soon as I understood that I could write adaptations without speaking other languages. My first play was an adaptation of a Spanish Golden Age play, and I had always thought it was in the hands of the linguists and the academics, which actually it was for a long time. As soon as I realised there was this new kind of form, where you work from a literal translation alongside the original text, I understood that everything I loved about theatre and acting I could take with me in to that. And drop all the things I hated about acting.

F*** The Polar Bears is at the Bush Theatre until 24th October. To book tickets, see the website.

 

{ad-placement-MPU1}

Most popular

What to See at The Cinema

What to See at The Cinema

Your go-to guide to what's on the silver screen
Advertisement
Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

The five finest spots in London to shoot the breeze and pass the pipe
Advertisement
The Best Riverside Walks In London

The Best Riverside Walks In London

Oh we do like to be beside the canalside...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Top Theatre of the Week

Top Theatre of the Week

Where to get the best of new theatre openings in London
Top Exhibitions of the Week

Top Exhibitions of the Week

The place to come for all the best current exhibitions in London...
London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

With the balmy weather here to stay, why not take in the sumptuous beauty that these London flower shows have to offer
Top Gigs of the Week

Top Gigs of the Week

From underground indie to rap stars to house legends, we've got you covered...
Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Even if the Easter bunny doesn’t visit your garden this month, there are plenty of ways to get your sweet fix this springtime
Where to Eat for a Fiver or Less

Where to Eat for a Fiver or Less

We go on a mission to find the absolute cheapest eats in London

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!

Advertisement