Ticketmaster Summer in Stages


Ben Ockrent
Vicky Graham Productions
St James Theatre


Breeders is the opening show in the One Stage season for emerging producers. The play spends most of its 2½ hours masquerading as an elongated lightweight TV sitcom translated to the stage.

Only far too late does Ben Ockrent’s play begin to address some major issues a little more seriously but still for the most part without great thought or commitment.

In a new home that needs a good deal of development and looks like a yellow meccano structure adorned with orange ladders, we are introduced to the badly mismatched Andy and Caro (these people do not like full names).

They are a newly married female couple, she a self-help author and she a family lawyer (cue the first of many wry anti-lesbian laughs).

The duo, played respectively by Tamsin Outhwaite and Angela Griffin, are trying to complete their relationship and decide that the solution is a baby.

Wanting to keep things in the family, they opt without his knowledge to appoint Andy’s brother, Nicholas Burns's lazy Jimmy, as putative father.

Because he and his girlfriend, Jemima Rooper as Sharo, are short on funds, they do not take too much persuading to move in to one of theatre’s stranger ménages a quatre.

For five plus months, beleaguered Jimmy is expected by his neurotically hectoring sister to provide sperm on a daily basis for her increasingly reluctant partner.

This puts excessive strain on the whole “family” so it is hardly surprising that fecundity is lacking.

After using this loose structure to deliver a stream of sometimes tasteless and occasionally funny jokes, in the final stages the writer attempts to look into some of the issues that this situation inevitably brings to the fore. However, since none of his characters is fully developed, the kind of in-depth analysis that should have underpinned the evening is not forthcoming.

The idea of staging a play that considers the difficulties of same-sex marriage and motherhood is sound. However, it may well be that the only people properly qualified to get under the skin of female pairings of this type are members of female pairings of this type.

Breeders will appeal to those who like their comedies desperately undemanding but also fans of Swedish karaoke. This brings out hidden talents in all four of the performers but especially Jemima Rooper who has a voice that seems lovely at the best of times and well-suited to belting out hits of the 80s with a unique Nordic flavour.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher