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Breeding | King's Head Theatre

After an initial run under its belt, Breeding returns to the King’s Head Theatre with even more to prove to audiences about why it is THE show to see this Easter. Director Tom Radcliffe first steered this show during the theatre’s Queer Interrogation season last year. It was an excellent move in bringing the show’s themes under the spotlight, amidst a landscape within theatre with little to no representation about the topic of adoption, even less with same-sex prospective parents.

Barry McStay (writer) returns to his role as Eoin, a shy yet determined dad-to-be, with other aspiring dad Zeb (Dan Nicholson) at second in command. In navigating through the bureaucracy of adoption, they are accompanied by Beth (Offies-award winning actress Nemide May), who is their social worker and advocate. Right off the bat, the on-stage chemistry between Zeb and Eoin was palpable, and drove the story forward in their determination to win Beth over as capable, non child-killing dads, (the bare minimum of what might be expected these days!)

Nemide’s performance was also really excellent, and her ability to represent the wavering conflicts of interest throughout the play made the story that bit more gripping, and deepened the stakes of our main character’s quest for victory. However, the plot devices did feel at times a little too convenient and theatrical, in particular Beth’s own circumstances and a dreaded moral dilemma later on in the play.

Breeding is a much needed show in depicting the queer narratives to be picked up on and

explored through a more domestic lens. Eoin just wants to be a dad with a family in a nice

home, he wants the simple life. However the push and pull of this desire and how it impacts

Zeb could have been its own show, as a character study into how partners communicate and

navigate those big life decisions. Whether or not to follow them in tick box form, not too

dissimilar to the clinical and unwavering nature of the adoption process at hand. Similarly,

Beth’s own struggles, helps her character to take on the form of more than just a social

worker, but a human in her right with her own good days, bad days, slip ups and


The scene where the trio bump into each other during ‘date night’ reveals just how realistic these characters are, how the driving plot has humanised this story to such a degree that the audience is rooting for each of them in finding what they are all looking for. Aside from the show’s minimal yet efficient cast, this review would not be complete without mentioning the fantastic set and costume design (Ruby Law), as well as the sound and lighting (Jac Cooper and Rachel Sampley). As you walked into the theatre, you were presented with a larger-than-life multicoloured set of child’s building blocks, complete with seats that took on multiple location changes, e.g. the couple’s tidied lounge, the hospital, a park bench etc.

The lighting elements weaved within the set design were smartly conceptualised, and

made this a delight to watch all the different ways that the stage morphed along with the

story. As well, the excellent backdrop made up of what looks like real adoption papers lifted

directly from Southwark council, was such a clever additional element, especially in how it

interacted with the characters. Breeding is a plot heavy piece of storytelling, so it was a

welcomed extra in bringing the whole production together in satisfying and creative ways.

Later on, the flashback to our protagonists skinny dipping at Hampstead Heath took on a

bluer hue and assistance from the projection of moving water. It represented dual states of

location without the need for advanced set design changes. It is clear that since the play’s

first rehearsal reading, the team have secured industry leading creatives.

If you get the chance to see one play this spring, it should be Breeding. It is such a compelling story of people way out of their depth, facing the prospects of sharing their deepest, darkest hopes and fears. It promises to leave you with dangling questions about the timelines of our lives, what we get to celebrate, what we lose, and ultimately, leave as our legacy in this lifetime.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ed Rees


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