Review by David Munro
MISCONCEPTIONS is a revised version of an earlier
play by David Lewis, Sperm Wars, the title of which sums
up the essence of the play.
It is based on the concept that a childless couple seek to save
their marriage by DIY artificial insemination only to destroy
There is the basis of a serious play in that concept, only Mr
Lewis deals with it flippantly and, at times, in very bad taste.
The protagonists, Linda and Mathew, have suffered the loss of
a child through Linda's miscarriage.
Mathew believes he is infertile and has enlisted the help of
his friend, Barry, to supply the wherewithal to enable Linda to
conceive another child.
Being a professor of Biology, Mathew believes this can be achieved
at home and the main thrust of the play is based on how this is
to be put into effect.
Linda has accepted the situation, albeit reluctantly, and tries
with apparent mounting distaste to comply with Mathew’s
wishes yet, at the same time, withdrawing from him physically.
During the course of the play, Linda and Barry physically consummate
their friendship and Mathew, who is seemingly content at using
Barry’s sperm, artificially resents Linda being impregnated
He resumes an affair with a student, Zoe, when Linda leaves him
apparently to prove whether or not he really is infertile which,
naturally, Zoe resents.
I will not disclose the resolution of this tangled state of
affairs in case what I have already written should induce you
to go and see the play for yourself.
The first act, where the plot lines are laid, is full of smutty
and adolescent humour on the subject of fertility and the methods
of achieving it.
This caused offence to a number of last night’s audience,
who left the theatre in protest. This is their right, but the
second act was far more serious, dealing with sterility and its
effects on the fabric of civilisation in general, and marriage
in particular and was worth a moments consideration.
What this play would have been like in the hands of an incompetent
cast I shudder to think. As it is, Mr Lewis is more than well
served by an excellent cast who gave what dramatic meaning there
is to his theories in an acceptable and moving manner.
Linda, a part which, in less capable
hands, would be a strident and unsympathetic one, was played with
consummate art and grace by Jemma Redgrave.
Miss Redgrave proves that she is a worthy member of the famous
theatrical family and, on her handling of this character, appears
a contender for her aunt's title as one of the great - if not
the greatest - actress of our time.
She has presence, an ability to give weight and meaning to the
most terrible of lines, an air of serenity, which enables her
to dominate the stage even when she is not speaking, and an overall
control of her part and the audience which is breathtaking.
She is well partnered by Timothy Walker, as Mathew, who makes
a perfect foil for her troubled Linda with his unreasonable, jealous,
and tortured character.
He, too, gave a wealth of meaning to what is, in essence, a
most unpleasant character and made one feel a sympathy for him
which was essential but not inherent in the script.
Barry is a thankless part, in love with Linda and used by Mathew,
he is the epitome of a wimp, but Sam Parks gave him a likeable
humanity which made his acceptance of his role as underdog understandable.
Zoe, a part which is really a sounding board for Mathew to air
his views, only appears in the second act. Nonetheless, Amy Brown
managed to give her a personality which, with the lines she was
given to say, was quite an achievement.
How much of this is due to the director, Tim Carroll, it is hard
A lot of the peripheral business with files and papers and other
paraphernalia was fussy and seemed unnecessary, unless he was
attempting to draw the audience’s attention away from the
inherent awfulness of the script.
To sum up, a good cast in an unpleasant play can still make the
evening worthwhile, as is the case here.
I would like to see them in parts worthy of their talents and
expertise but they deserve every plaudit there is for achieving
what they did for Mr Lewis.
While this is a difficult play to recommend, it would be a pity
if their achievement went unrecognised and, for their sakes alone,
I hope this play gets to the West End so they can get the full
appreciation they deserve.
But for their efforts, one would have to say that Misconceptions
is hopelessly misconceived.
Misconceptions by David Lewis; Directed by Tim Carroll;
Designer, Kit Surrey; Lighting, Chris Fenwick; Sound, John Leonard;
Fight Director, David Broughton-Davies.
CAST: Jemma Redgrave; Timothy Walker; Sam Parks; Amy Brown.
A Royal and Demgates Theatres Northampton production presented
by Greg Ripley Duggan.
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 IQJ.
Mon, Oct 11 – Sat, Oct 16, 2004.
Evenings: 7.45pm / Matinees: Wed & Sat: 2.30pm.
Box Office: 020 8940 0088