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Theatre503 presents




by Lou Ramsden


Directed by Tim Roseman



21 September – 16 October 2010







A review by Alexandra Carey for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Breed, a part of Theatre 503’s declared commitment to new urban voices, is a play about dog-fighting. Except that it’s not really; it’s much more a play about family love and loyalty and what happens when they conflict, what happens when it’s time to run your own life.

With a simple, unembellished set and understatedly sophisticated staging, the writing is allowed to shine through and grab you by the throat. And it’s very good.  Ramsden has achieved the far from easy feat of managing to set a play thoroughly and convincingly in a specific world, but simultaneously to create such engaging drama and characters that it is irrelevant whether you know or understand the slightest thing about that world. The play speaks for itself. After a slightly rickety start (on, admittedly, the opening night) the story spans out from itself, and carries us along without ever time for a doubt. Despite this unexpected pace and excitement it manages to stick to the right side of the melodrama line, and there is enough ambiguity to keep you thinking and guessing.

What helps in this balance is a really able and believable cast. There were strong performances all round but it was the brilliant combined energy of John Michie and Deirdre O’Kane that gave the play its real kick start. O’Kane plays wife and mother Christine, and her reduction by the very end of the play to her husband’s horrific bidding is one of the most affecting and interesting aspects of it.

There is no doubt what style and feel Roseman and designers Simon Daw and Natasha Chivers are going for; heavy dance music over the scene changes, a fairly basic set with drab colours and merging textures on the walls and simple low lighting throughout. This is ‘urban gritty’ with all the clichés that might imply. But it works well, and is a well judged foil to the sometimes larger-than life characters. And the play never allows itself to fall into a stereotype or to take itself too seriously; it is full of brilliant little one liner’s and self references, as well as it’s somewhat surprising characters. And somewhere in the middle is a tornado of unexpected tenderness which every now and then breaks through the cracks. 

Breed is a play that lingers, sticks with you in vicious little images and moments of sparkling wit. It keeps resurfacing when you don’t expect it and I have a feeling it will remain stored up for some time to come. I keep coming back to its universality, and how for something so specific it speaks of so many things. This, I think, is its greatest strength and what makes it very entertaining.



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