When you’re heading into London to catch a play without having everything booked in advance things don’t always go your way, however, during the play’s production at the Donmar Warehouse we managed to get tickets to Polar Bears by Mark Haddon at the last minute.
With only standing seats available we nearly turned away, but luckily we grabbed the £7.50 stubs and took up place on the leaning rail of the standing area upstairs at the theatre in the West End of London. However, a few people hadn’t turned up for the pre-booked seats, which had sold out before the production had started, and we were ushered downstairs to places just feet away from the big, open stage for the start of the performance.
The adaptation of Haddon’s book follows the roller coaster lives of John (Richard Coyle) and his bi-polar wife Kay, as they struggle to keep a hold of each other when the darkness drops on their relationship. With the presence of the overbearing mother (Celia Imrie) and the obnoxious brother, the couple never really stand a chance of coping with the intensity of the situation.
Polar Bears is far fetched, but real life comic tragedy that eeks out a crushing narrative that follows the plot to its inevitably disturbing conclusion.
Despite the occasional overly dramatic theatrics, the performance was gripping and moving. Darkly comic, icily tragic, shockingly surreal and fathomlessly morose, Polar Bears is a strong west end debut for Mark Haddon. Emotionally powerful, it is a glimpse into a world that is both a little alien, and disturbingly familiar for anyone that has seen the ups and downs of troubled relationships up close and personal.
However, the best part of the night was that out of the aftermath of the applause that rang around the Donmar at the end of the play came Mark Haddon himself, who had been sat right in front of us the whole time. How’s that for £7.50 well spent. The performance, production, storyline, price of the ticket and special guest appearance made a mini adventure well worth its while.
Polar Bears, by Mark Haddon, at the Donmar Theatre review: 3.9/5