Theatre, Off-West End
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
(7user reviews)
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 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Angela Griffin (Caroline), Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea), Nicholas Burns (Jimmy)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Angela Griffin (Caroline), Nicholas Burns (Jimmy), Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea) and Jemima Rooper (Sharon)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Jemima Rooper (Sharon) and Nicholas Burns (Jimmy)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Jemima Rooper (Sharon), Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea), Nicholas Burns (Jimmy)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Nicholas Burns (Jimmy) and Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Nicholas Burns (Jimmy) and Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea) and Nicholas Burns (Jimmy)

 (Manuel Harlan)
Manuel Harlan

Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea) and Nicholas Burns (Jimmy)

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

Tamzin Outhwaite (Andrea), Nicholas Burns (Jimmy), Angela Griffin (Caroline)

Jemima Rooper is fearlessly funny in this sitcom-ish caper

There are times when Ben Ockrent’s ‘Breeders’ feels less like watching a play, more like being part of the live audience for the taping of an old-fashioned telly sitcom. And that’s not a terrible thing: there’s certainly a lack of pretension – one might even say aspiration – to his play that allows it to duck the wider philosophical ramifications of its premise and just concentrate on being a bit of a larf.

Tamzin Outhwaite’s Andrea and Angela Griffin’s Caroline are a high-achieving lesbian couple. They are romantically unconvincing, albeit in the way most couples in sitcoms are romantically unconvincing – not much sexual chemistry, seemingly incompatible personalities (Andrea’s a neurotic self-help guru, Caroline’s a brassy family lawyer), little real insight into how they feel and think about the world.

They – or at least Andrea – desperately want a child to complete their idyll, and in order to spawn one with both their DNA, they hit upon the idea of inseminating Caro with the sperm of Andrea’s schlubby brother Jimmy (Nicholas Burns). Furthermore, Andrea invites Jimmy and his amusingly tactless girlfriend Sharon (Jemima Rooper) to move in to their spacious new house to live rent free while focussing on the task at hand. And as with every good sitcom – hijinks ensue.

Early on, my PC alarm tingled fitfully: is this really Ockrent’s story to tell? Should he or director Tamara Harvey have felt a responsibility to make the central couple seem more recognisably queer? But really, it’s all so harmless and good-natured that it seems absurd to try and work up any sort of objection.

‘Breeders’ is essentially a play about four middle-class English people stuffed into close proximity and left to go slightly mad, and while it’s frequently a bit naff, it’s generally pretty funny. An awful lot of that’s down to Jemima Rooper: one of the finest and most fearless comic stage actors we have, her total commitment to blithe, uncomplicated Sharon is a sight to behold, from the plaintive, childlike way she asks Andrea gaspingly inappropriate questions about the ‘process’ to some sublime physical business – hurling herself at the knackered Jimmy with wild-eyed fervour; delicately manoeuvring a series of boxes around the living room in a ludicrous tip-toed crouch.

Toss in Burns’s wonderfully hang-dog expressions, Outhwaite and Griffin’s general likeability and an endearingly loopy device wherein the cast sing Swedish versions of popular ’80s hits during scene changes and it all adds up to an evening that’s at worst a guilty pleasure, at best uncomplicated fun.

By: Andrzej Lukowski


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Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
2 people listening
Caroline L

Awful. No comic timing, Tamzin Outhwaite can't sing.. and the whole thing is mainly boring. Some good one-liners, but this is just plain dull. And would someone please tell Angela Griffin to project her voice more? I could barely hear her!

Sarah P

Good fun evening, superb acting, genuinely funny moments (and some poignant ones too). Great theatre venue too - modern and intimate. Highly recommend if you want to be entertained but want something a bit more than farce or 'light and fluffy.'

Guy M

Lots of fun. The production is sometimes a bit pantomimey (which is why it feels like sitting in on a sitcom) and that slightly undermines the seriousness of the more poignant scenes. But performances are all strong and I generally found it very enjoyable.

Marianne I v

Both my guest and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, on Tuesday evening; the play is well put together, extremely entertaining and interlaced with superb humour.

The (simple) set works well too.....

I certainly recommend this, very "modern", show!

The theatre itself (my first visit to this venue) has excellent visibility, though legroom is maybe a bit on the meagre side......and I am neither a big person, nor particularly tall.

Luckily I was suitably distracted by the goings-on on the stage :)

Nadia T

Utterly loveable! A perfect mix of childhood whimsy and grown-up intellect. With a backdrop of Swedish cover songs to boot. All four actors were superb, the stage was intimate enough for the audience to feel involved  in the characters drama's and exasperation's, and the script  had me laughing so much I cried. 

The Man on the Street

I am rather glad I got the opportunity to see this show through The Time Out Card ballot. One friend had raved about it, one was not keen and one was on the fence. Well, I enjoyed it. Big topics handled with a light touch and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. I am giving it 7 out of 10. I am also giving the theatre 9 out of 10. The St James shows other West End venues what a night out could and should feel like. Great bar scene with decent food. One usual downfall - The ice cream was more expensive per square inch than my house. 

Alison r

Breeders is an absolute joy.  It's written with genuine wit and huge warmth.  It reminded me of an early Alan Ayckbourne play ... but with more heart and optimism.  The cast are funny, endearing and truthful without ever being schmaltzy - all four of them are superb.  Tamzin Outwaite and Angela Griffin are the couple who decide that their marriage would be complete if they could have a baby. Nicholas Burns is the hapless brother who is chosen to provide the sperm and Jemima Rooper his girlfriend who agrees with this masterly plan.  What could possible go wrong?  LIfe, birth, death, IVF and human relationships are explored and provide laughter and tears.  Not to mention a standing ovation at the end which was well deserved, both for the cast and the writer.