Review of ‘Breeding’: “Baby, baby, baby (Celion Dion-style)”

The King’s Head Theatre‘s Takeover Festival opens its second season with a busy offer featuring both new and transferred shows focusing on LGBT+ matters. Guillermo Nazara reviews its inaugurating play dealing with same-sex parenting and the dreams, doubts and struggles of a gay couple, to share his thoughts on a piece where convention is the odd one out.

“Children are gifts. They are not ours for the breaking. They are ours for the making”. But who’s brave enough to accept such precious present? The history of gay men is a history of fighting: we’ve fought to love whomever we need to, we’ve fought to have the same rights straight couples have alwatys taken for granted, and we fight to live the life we choose to live – sometimes, even when that comes to the one that we want to be a part of.

Two men wanting to adopt a child. Nothing odd about that, except for their names, perhaps. One is called Zeb and the other one is Irish – you get the picture. One same hope, one same dream – but very different reasons why to have it, let alone pursue it. And very different experiences to go through when such desire intercedes with a new journey none of them were expecting. One same path, but two separate ways of walking it – and also two separate speeds.

Breeding does justice to its title. Unfortunately, not in the way that you were expecting to (yeah, don’t tell me you were thinking about offspring the first time you read it). But it does serve as both description and allegory of what’s about to come. The emotional support both men rely upon each other is, in fact, another way of parenting, not to their future child, but themselves: feeding from and being nurtured by their opposite during the long, excruciating and sometimes diminishing process of applying for adoption. And that’s the true essence of the piece: not the struggles stemming from bureaucracy, but those from knowing your true self and the one you expect to complete you.

Written by Barry McStay, the play excels at creating an engaging, moving story narrated with rapid but never rushed rhythm – the only exception being an ending that, though touching, could have benefited either from further development or, otherwise, closing in a more unwrapping way. This tiny flaw, however, does not prevent the overall enjoyment and allure of the piece, entertaining and connecting with its audience through the purity of its dialogue. It states what we’ve all heard, it claims what we’ve all said. Yet, it doesn’t sound repetitive or cliched. It’s mostly reassuring and true.

Directed by Matthew Iliffe, its cast delivers their parts with rejuvenating honesty, growing an atmosphere of intimacy and trust bridging between the plot and its viewers. Author Barry McStay also stars (and stands out) as Eoin (I told you he was Irish, before!), giving an outstanding rendition through the stirring frankness of his portrayal. Next to him, both Daniel Nicholson (Zeb, his husband) and Aamira Challenger (social worker, Beth) also give enjoyable performances, the three of them mingling with absolute chemistry during the show’s whole progression.

Cleverly staged by Ceci Calf in perfect rapport with Ryan Joseph Stafford’s lighting (their designs able to both evoke and appeal through their transporting ambiances) Breeding is a a jolly good accomplishment on both production and storytelling levels. Direct to its points and with more than a few compelling moments that will clearly speak to their target audience, the play serves as channel of feelings and convictions for both its dramaturg (it does feel personal) and those who come watch it. And that’s the kind of queer creature we like best.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Breeding plays at London’s King’s Head Theatre until 7 May. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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