Breeding review – King’s Head Theatre, London ★★★★★

Photo: Ed Rees

Review by Ethan Skillman

Coming from a rural town in the South West, I can’t think of a time before now when I have seen a piece of theatre that has a gay couple front and centre, let alone a couple that is already well established. This, therefore made Breeding a unique and important piece to me.

Breeding tells the story of a gay couple, Zeb and Eoin, who are going through the adoption process and most of the play is told through their meetings with Beth, the woman whose job it is to decide if they are suitable to be parents. Barry McStay has written a moving and hilarious piece. The script is filled with so many heartwarming character moments and well-placed jokes. McStay allows the story to breathe and be emotional when it needs to be, but sprinkles in moments of humour at the perfect moments to make the characters feel real and I fell in love with each one.

McStay also played Eoin and did an equally brilliant job at it. He obviously has a deep understanding of his text, and it showed in all the nuanced facial expressions and movements he used. Without spoiling, there is one reaction he has to a particular word that broke me. Nemide May was also incredible as Beth. She had the difficult job of playing both sides of her personality: the professional side of her working with Zeb and Eoin and the more vulnerable side of her struggles trying to conceive through IVF and she portrayed both sides superbly making me feel for her throughout.

Photo: Ed Rees

No doubt the highlight of the whole show though, was Dan Nicholson as Zeb. There is one monologue he has later on in the show that is absolutely beautiful and throughout the whole play, he excels in portraying every up and down in the relationship. When he shouts at Eoin, you can instantly see the regret in his face and the love he has for him. The 2 actors were perfectly cast as a couple, and I believed them the whole time.

I was incredibly pleased to see that this play had Kiren Verdee as a movement and intimacy director as I feel like it was definitely needed for a show with such heavy topics as this one and I hope this is something every show of this nature has going forward. I would also like to specifically praise Rachel Sampley for the lighting and video design. From just the brightness of a light, I was instantly able to tell before it even being said that one scene was set in a hospital and without the differentiation of lights/video, I would have found it incredibly hard to tell when something was a flashback or not but her work helped immensely.

Overall, Breeding is a superb show and the exact type of work I would love to be making as a young queer theatremaker when I graduate from uni. This and In Clay both came from the, sadly, recently cancelled Vault festival, which just shows how important it was to the creation of new and exciting works. I hope Breeding has a long successful life ahead of it.

Breeding is at the King’s Head Theatre until 14 April