Bringing Up Baby In New Play Breeders

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 41 months ago
Bringing Up Baby In New Play Breeders

Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea) and Nicholas Burns (Jimmy). Photo by Manuel Harlan.

So here's a play about the topic du jour: having a baby. Ben Ockrent's new play Breeders uses the narrative of a lesbian couple trying to get pregnant using one of their brother's sperm (it's not the sister who's trying to get knocked up; it's not that kind of play) to talk about the reasons and emotions around why we have kids.

It's a Big Issue made more extreme by having brother Jimmy and his girlfriend Sharon move into couple Caroline and Andrea's new house — a set which gradually transforms from a building site into a home, a neat metaphor. Ockrent squeezes the situation for all its comedic worth, and Nicholas Burns and Jemima Rooper knock the funny out of the park. Burns, in particular, is a joy: his dialogue-free, several-minutes-long shuffle up the stairs to have the world's most awkward wank is a guaranteed audience pleaser.

However, though all the variants are lined up and gone over (the environmental impact of children, societal attitudes to LGBT people with, and without, kids, maternal instinct or lack of it, money, responsibility, unhappy childhoods to name but a few), it does feel a bit like box-ticking. The central couple, played by Tamzin Outhwaite and Angela Griffin, don't get to express much emotional nuance as they hurtle, head down, towards their goal, Outhwaite's character in babyfever-ridden positivity overdrive. Taboos are touched, then skirted around in favour of the next gag. More depth wouldn't have gone amiss.

A note, also, on the tactic used to cover scene changes: the cast singing Swedish cover versions of 80s pop hits. While hilarious in isolation — Jemima Rooper's rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart, complete with wind machine, is magnificent — the elk in the room is that they seem to have wandered in from a different play. Funny, but not quite satisfying: we could say the same about the whole play.

Breeders is on at St James Theatre, 12 Palace Street SW1, until 4 October. Tickets £15-£49.50. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary press ticket.

Last Updated 09 September 2014