This fast-paced comedy written by
Ben Ockrent and directed by Tamara Harvey boasts an impressive cast, and deals
with its themes in an honest and intelligent way.
follows the minor power couple Andrea and Caroline. Andrea, played by Tamzin
Outhwaite, is the author of some amusingly named self-help books. She has just
moved in to a large home with long-term partner Caroline (Angela Griffin), a
successful family law solicitor who has just been made partner. It seems they
have it all but there's still one thing they really want - a baby.
Andrea wants a child
genetically linked to both of them, and one boozy Christmas the couple asks Andrea's underachieving brother Jimmy (Nicholas
Burns) to be their sperm donor. At which point, Jimmy's doubtful girlfriend
Sharon (Jemima Rooper) is also added to the mix.
Along the way
there are Swedish covers of 80s pop; a stitch-inducing rendition of Bonnie
Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Jemima Rooper had me in physical pain
got off to a bumpy start with some technical issues, but this only served to get
the audience behind the actors. The cast were
excellent, and the intimate nature of the staging at the St. James Theatre made me
feel as if I were there in the living room with them. While this play may be
categorised as comedy, it was much more than that, and although it explored the underlying
humour to be found in heightened emotional states, the humour didn't detract
from the drama. There were several moments where I had both kinds of tears in my
Outhwaite gave a particularly powerful performance as obsessive Andrea spearheading
the conception campaign and forcing both Caroline and Jimmy into ever-more
ridiculous fertility-boosting regimes. The play showed not just how hard
conception can be practically but also the toll that trying to conceive can
take on family finances and on relationships.
The play's tag-line
is 'the path to parenthood isn't always straight', playing up Caroline and
Andrea's relationship, but that is only part of the story. During a break in
their relationship Sharon has a one-night-stand and becomes pregnant; what ensues
shows that parenthood isn't easy or simple for anyone, not just gay couples, and
that modern family life is complex.
readers will know, it's rare of me to give such a favourable review. So it'd be
unusual if I didn't mention that the first half is a touch on the slow side and
its humour too reliant on the practicalities of sperm sample production.
'Breeders' is on a very limited run of just over
month, so if you want to see it - and I think you should - book now!