Home » Reviews » Drama » Breeders, St James Theatre – Review
Credit: Manuel Harlan
Credit: Manuel Harlan

Breeders, St James Theatre – Review

Pros: Jemima Rooper sparkles in this otherwise underwhelming show.

Cons: The script is unimaginative and the acting at times mechanical.

Pros: Jemima Rooper sparkles in this otherwise underwhelming show. Cons: The script is unimaginative and the acting at times mechanical. With the who’s who of LGBT media types and friends of 'friends of Dorothy' turning up for press night, you know that Breeders is going to be major. A star cast and accomplished director Tamar Harvey at the helm gave me confidence that I was in safe hands. Sadly, the show seemed more promising than it actually was – this was definitely a missed opportunity. Breeders tells the story of Andrea (Tamzin Outhwaite) and her wife Caroline (Angela Griffin)…

Summary

Rating

Poor

A missed opportunity that fails to capitalise on a rich subject matter and deep pool of talent.

User Rating: 3.03 ( 4 votes)
With the who’s who of LGBT media types and friends of ‘friends of Dorothy’ turning up for press night, you know that Breeders is going to be major. A star cast and accomplished director Tamar Harvey at the helm gave me confidence that I was in safe hands. Sadly, the show seemed more promising than it actually was – this was definitely a missed opportunity.

Breeders tells the story of Andrea (Tamzin Outhwaite) and her wife Caroline (Angela Griffin) who decide they want a child. They ask Andrea’s brother Jimmy (Nicholas Burns) to donate his sperm, inviting him and his girlfriend Sharon (Jemima Rooper) to live with them whilst they attempt to conceive. The plot has all the makings of a great family drama packed with humour, but this is never fully realised.

It’s almost impossible to make a good production from a bad script, so to some extent Breeders was scuppered from the start. Playwright Ben Ockrent has created characters that speak as if they barely know each other, not as if they are the family/friends/significant others they are intended to be. Griffin’s Caroline works as a family lawyer, which seems fitting given that everyone seems to be arguing a case in court rather than having a normal conversation.

The script is the biggest, but not the only problem with this show. Outhwaite is cold and school-ma’mish, although there are brief glimpses at vulnerability. Griffin has her moments, like a particularly hilarious incident with a label-maker. As a pair however, they lack real chemistry and spend the play awkwardly manoeuvring around each other. Hooper and Burns have an excellent sense of comic timing and play off each other well. Hooper is equally adept at humour and pathos and Burns has a wonderful moment as Jimmy reveals that he stuck up for his sister against their homophobic uncle. His appalled feeling of injustice at the discrimination really strikes a chord.

There is some laughter to be had with this piece and the room reacted warmly to the humour in the dialogue. There are undeniably hilarious bits but often the jokes are brash and obvious. Each scene ends with a sitcom-y, smart Alec line; I half-expected a knowing look to camera before the blackout.

Lesbian parenting and trying to start a family as a gay couple are important topics that deserves a platform like the St James Theatre and a starry cast and creative team like this one. Sadly, Breeders doesn’t cash in on its considerable potential. However, early signs point towards commercial success, which could pave the way for more plays of its ilk. This can only be a positive thing for British theatre.

Author: Ben Ockrent
Director: Tamara Harvey
Producer: Vicky Graham Productions
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/breeders/
Booking Until: 4 October 2014

About Anna Forsyth

Anna Forsyth
Writer. Anna is a born, and bred Londoner who lost herself up North for a few years, and then got really lost – all the way to Canada. The way to Anna’s theatrical heart is Pinter, onstage gore, or a tall leading man with a Welsh accent. When she’s not out enjoying Shakespeare or something equally cultural, you’ll find her yelling at the TV at Arsenal/Vancouver Canucks/England Cricket Team/her favourite poker players. Two arts degrees have not stopped her from loving cheesy musicals.
  • teasnuggy

    My husband and I went to this play with our lesbian couple friends. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and all felt that the topic was dealt with in a very real way, albeit with a lot of humour. I don’t think its fair to say that it was a missed opportunity – this is the first time i’ve actually seen a lesbian storyline on stage (and i’m 32) and one involving an issue that is particularly delicate.