“We weren’t sure how well a pair of lesbians pretending to breast feed a bag of flour would go down in B&Q”
Heading up the One Stage season of work led by emerging producers – in this case Vicky Graham – Ben Ockrent’s Breeders sees a sadly rare thing, a play that just casually has more women than men in its cast. When you hear that it is a comedy about lesbians who want to become parents then that becomes a little less surprising but from the anecdotal evidence I’ve been collecting this year, our stages remain disproportionately weighted with testosterone.
Anyhoo, back to the lesbians. Andrea and Caroline have just moved into a swanky new house and want to fill it with a family and specifically, with a family that is as biologically connected to them as possible. So they ask Andrea’s brother Jimmy to be the sperm donor, something that takes him and his girlfriend Sharon by surprise, and as they agree to create their own version of a modern family, it appears that they’re breeding as much trouble as they are children.
First up, Ockrent’s play really is quite funny indeed. The set-up may be quite sitcom-ish and James Perkins’ one-room design plays into this a little, but there are some cracking gags in here – the bag of flour garnering the biggest laughs but a real spiky honesty to much of the dialogue means that the laughs really do keep on coming. And the surreal twist of the interludes – why, they’re Swedish covers of pop songs of course – lends its own comic edge.
The only problem comes with the writer’s uncertainty of tone when it comes to the more serious side of things. Issues like gay parenthood, the environmental impact of having a child, even just the rights that a sperm donor has to the end product of their endeavour are all raised and dealt with in a flash with nervous laughter, their dramatic potential sacrificed for easy humour and begging the question why they have been included in the first place, if not to be explored properly.
Still, Tamara Harvey gets a lovely set of performances from her quartet of actors. Tamzin Outhwaite and Angela Griffin’s power lesbians are well suited to each other and illuminate their journeys through the trials of trying to get pregnant with skill and pathos, Nicholas Burns as the ne’er-do-well brother has a wonderful everyman presence hat is highly appealing and as his partner, Jemima Rooper steals the show with the best sung interlude, best costume and best set of quirky talents.