‘A rose by any other name.’ Potty-mouthed Play Titles
“I’d like to book for the play with the polar bears.”
“Please can I book for the play that opens in September.”
Two phrases that our box office team are getting used to hearing. They report that it can be quite difficult to summon up the courage to respond “Ah yes, Fuck the Polar Bears” without a slight break in their voice, or a nervous giggle.
When we asked F*ck the Polar Bears playwright Tanya Ronder about the title that’s causing our lovely box office team to blush she explained that it’s the “playfulness” of the title that she’s enjoyed, but admits that she “was ready to eject it at any point, I thought that it was just going to be a working title, but it stayed with the play. I think they belong together, the play and the title.”
It’s certainly not gone unnoticed. Way back in May when that other sweary-word play of 2015 The Motherf**ker with the Hat opened at the National Theatre, The Guardian published an entire article by Mark Lawson on the difficulties of publicising a play with ‘fuck’ in the title.
Lawson paid particular attention to the asterisking of both plays (we use just the one *, whereas the much more respectable National used two). Lawson noted that “it was the 1996 Mark Ravenhill script that began the theatrical fashion for testing the sensitivity of printers [going] even further to preserve the virtue of the reader’s eye: the play is called Shopping and F***ing on the cover of the Methuen Modern Plays text.” Although any prudishness obviously hasn’t affected the popularity of the play – it’s been published and produced all over the world. It’s interesting to take a look at how the title is presented on various playtexts and posters:
Actually, the only playtext we could find that didn’t asterisk the title was an Argentinian edition translated into Spanish.
Idly googling for other things that have ‘fuck’ in their title brings up some absolute gems.
Go the Fuck to Sleep is written as a “children’s book for adults”. While its writing is in the style of classic children’s bedtime stories, it includes the parent’s language as commentary on the tricks used by Mansbach’s daughter to avoid having to go to bed. The narrator advises the child that other animals have gone to sleep already including cats and lambs, and asks the child to “Please go the fuck to sleep”.
Fuck is a 2005 American documentary film by director Steve Anderson about the word “fuck”. The film argues that the word is an integral part of societal discussions about freedom of speech and censorship.
And this podcast on that other four letter word is excellent…
Allusionist 4: Detonating the C-Bomb
And of course shed-loads of song titles drop the eff bomb. We have picked the king and queen of these songs to end on. You’re welcome…
N.B. Eamon has 1,186,632 YouTube views, Frankee has 2,464,329. We all know who the winner is here.
F*ck the Polar Bears runs 11 September to 24 October. Find out more here.