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Review of Breeders at the St. James Theatre, London

It is fair to say that there are a good few moments of very surreal happenings in Ben Ockrent's new play about lesbians, brothers and sisters and babies. Whether the cast are wearing odd costumes, getting into antics with flour or maybe even more oddly singing Swedish language eighties classics. The last of which is used rather cleverly to develop the set, but to be honest while it is an interesting way of doing this. It is more funny peculiar than funny ha ha, with the possible exeption of Jemima Rooper's redition of the Bonnie Taylor classic Total Eclipse Of The Heart. This truly is a funny moment and one which the audience on the night went wild for.

The play tells the story of a lesbian couple and their desire to have a baby. The complication comes from one of the couple, Andrea's (Tamzin Outhwaite) desire to keep the genetics of her family, resulting in her request to her brother Jimmy (Nicholas Burns) for his sperm to impregnate her wife Caroline (Angela Griffin). Throw into the confusion Jimmy's partner Sharon (Jemima Rooper) and you have the material for two hours of friction, fun and a little near the knuckle comedy.

Its fair to say from the outset that this is an entertaining and comical little play with a sprinkling of social comment. While some of the comedy can be a little based on the overplaying acting variety, there are some extremely funny one liners on offer. Among them some excruciatingly awkward ones featuring the situation of a brother masturbating on behalf of his sister and without doubt the funniest flour joke I have ever heard and possibly may ever hear.

I think what sells the play more as a comedy are the performances which are invariably superb. Outhwaite is a superb demonic self-centred monster that oddly you can't help but like. It is also a delight to hear that most wonderful of voices live. While as her wife, Griffin is the sane part of the couple, although sane in this play still represents slightly bonkers. Rooper is delightfully fun and has yet another of those wonderfully delicious voices that delight the ear. She also has a lovely stage presence and acts well above her diminutive size. She has the character I think that you have to feel sympathetic to the most. It is also quite refreshing in a play with three ladies and two of them lesbian characters for Rooper to not be one of them, as to me she always seems to be cast as one. Burns as the sole male character is an absolute delight and is at his comical best during those cringes and faces of abject discomfort when the painful descriptions of how all these baby making things work.

The set design by James Perkins is also very clever, allowing for development throughout (via that Swedish singing) and over time it creates the home that they are trying to create.

Overall a delightful little play which features four fine actors working their socks off and it finishes oddly given how it ends, very satisfactorily.

Rating 3.5/5 - A bonny little baby of a play.


Performance reviewed: Thursday 11th September, 2014 at the St. James Theatre, London.

Breeders runs at St. James Theatre, London until Saturday 4th October, 2014.
Details here: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/breeders/

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