I booked this last minute with a Time Out deal – just £18, which was good for quite a well known cast. I’d also never been to the St James Theatre before – hadn’t even heard of it, and I love trying out new places.
Firstly, the venue – it’s apparently only a couple of years old, and so is very modern, and well thought out. The seats were comfy with enough legroom, and although quite small there is a feeling of a greek theatre about it (although not curved), with the seating rows staggered at least a head height going up, so that there’s a really decent view for everyone. There’s also a really nice bar and bistro – a must have these days, and it was absolutely heaving when I went, so a great atmosphere.
And then the play. A cast of four, and all known in their own way. Tamzin Outhwaite and Angela Griffin were obviously top-billing as a high-powered, successful married couple at a stage where they want to start a family with Nicholas Burns (great comic actor – Man Stroke Woman etc) as Outhwaite’s bit-of-a-loser brother and the brilliant Jemima Rooper as his slightly ditsy girlfriend. Rooper was one of the reasons I wanted to go. She was brilliant in Hex and Lost in Austen, but I also saw her earlier this year playing alongside Angela Lansbury as Elvira in Blithe Spirit and she stole the show.
Author Ben Ockrent came up with the idea for the play based on his own experience when a close friend had once asked him to be a sperm donor for her and her girlfriend to conceive. For various reasons, he didn’t do it, but wondered how it would have affected everyone involved if he had.
There is a brilliant dynamic within the play as the theory behind the request is that the couple would like the baby to have both of their genes, so Griffin will carry the child, using Burns’ sperm as it carries Outhwaite’s DNA as they are siblings.
Obviously this leaves Rooper slightly out of the equation, ensuring some conflict, and the family history and rivalries can also be explored.
It’s not going to win any awards, but performances were great (particularly Griffin and Rooper), the script was clever and unpatronising, I genuinely laughed out loud and also got a tear in my eye. Chuck in a bag of flour and load of bad Swedish-language cover versions of old 80s pop hits and Christmas songs (yes, really) and it was a fantastic night out – recommended.