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Submitted Literature

Polar Bears

By Mark Haddon


Haddon’s first play charts the life, loves and realities of bipolar disorder as experienced by Kay, her family and friends. Kay’s character captures both the surging elation and creativity of a manic episode as well as the terror, delusion and desperation of serious mental illness. The perspectives of her mother (Margaret), brother (Sandy) and her partner (John) are woven into the text to illuminate the family dysfunction and childhood trauma feeding into Kay’s condition. Haddon at times utilises a fairy-tale mode capturing the unreality and sometimes fantastical nature of mental experiences, using characters including a handsome prince, a monster and a beautiful young woman. Carers will relate to John, an intelligent, devoted and well-intentioned individual who is repeatedly challenged and exasperated by Kay’s behaviour and that of her family. The character of Jesus adds a spectral perspective, oscillating between disturbing and comedic. The play is honest and brutal yet darkly humorous and is a compelling and powerful read.


Key Themes:

  • Bipolar Affective Disorder

Significant Quotes / Pages

Kay: (addressing John) Will you keep on loving me? When it goes dark again? (p. 27)

Kay: One morning he (the handsome prince) came to look for his beautiful young woman, but what he found instead was a pile of clothes lying on the floor of her room. He picked them up. Inside the clothes was a suit of human skin, with holes for the eyes, the nose and the fingernails. His beautiful young woman had gone. (p. 38)

Margaret: You won’t ever leave me, will you?

Kay: I won’t ever leave you.

Margaret: Sandy’s going to leave me. I know it. But I don’t ever want you to leave me.

Kay: I won’t leave you. (p. 43)

John: Do you know who I am?

Kay: Of course I know who you are. You’re my handsome prince. (p. 69)

Reference: Mark, Haddon. 2010. Polar Bears. Methuen, 2010


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 17th September 2010