A comedy from Norwich-based Irstead Theatre, War of the Sperms chronicles the lives of a fresh batch of sperm, following their education and their journey to the womb and the all-important egg. The newly-created sperm are played by a group of actors, who burst on to stage dressed in white, with tails sewn on to their leggings or shorts and wearing swim caps – a simple yet effective costume.
With name tags on their heads, they are split into X and Y, and sit on benches ready for their class with Guru. With the help of a flip board, charts and mantras – which of course includes ‘Every sperm is sacred’ – Guru prepares the sperm for their future. A latecomer, dressed in a black version of the costume, is quickly welcomed and sits with the other Y’s. Then the klaxons sound; John – ‘Almighty John’ – is potentially going to have sex with Bae, and after a quick prayer, the sperm rush off to get ready.
The rest of the play is about the sperms navigating their way through Bae’s reproductive system, armed with swimming goggles and an amusing variety of flotation devices. The sperms carry sports bags, which contain their chromosomes and a snack – a banana obviously – for the long, arduous journey ahead.
The plot, such as it is, does begin to unravel in all of the chaotic running around. However, there are some surprisingly touching moments between some of the sperms, and there is a certain amount of character development. It's chock full of groan-worthy puns and pop culture references too.
But the production tries to walk a fine line racially, and it doesn’t quite work. The black sperm shows up late and is treated differently – for example, by being given a potato when everyone else receives a banana. Perhaps it's meant to be an ironic subversion, but it's at odds with the Guru’s assertion that sperm come in many different shades (50) and are all equal. The ending is especially problematic and sours the production as a whole.
War of the Sperms is mostly a fun experience that is bound to elicit laughter, but it's an ultimately forgettable show.