Stories At National Theatre: A Slick, Tender Drama That Must Be Sampled
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Sperm donor or no sperm donor, that is the question. Stories tackles the reality of being a 39 year old single woman who wants a child: Anna, recently dumped, is now looking for an online sperm donor, or someone she knows who is willing to fill up her sample pot. Although it sounds like an intense storyline, Nina Raine’s drama is surprisingly comedic: instead of detracting from the matter at hand, these frequent laugh-out-loud instances make the arguably sad issue even more hard-hitting.
The ‘story’ in the title, however, takes a while to become obvious. When Anna is ‘between places’ and has to stay with a friend for a few weeks, she tells the friend’s young daughter a daily bedtime story. The story Anna tells the energetic young girl is Anna’s own life, all past boyfriends, student life, rejections, regrets and old landladies. One landlady, it comes to light, is a driving force behind Anna’s obsession with wanting a child.
The production’s small cast play multiple characters throughout the two hour play: this works particularly well when it comes to the countless men that Anna asks for sperm, all played by the fantastic Sam Troughton. From laid-back Irish to Cockney rapper, Troughton’s timing is the cause of many a laugh, and his accents, although occasionally questionable, are a hit. Claudie Blakley plays the desperate Anna with absolute sincerity; Stephen Boxer as her father is a hilarious middle-aged, glass half empty, yet ultimately soft, dad.
With clever costume changes, multi-use props and set, and seamless scene changes, the execution of the play is slick. The recurring bedtime story scenes, however, take a while to start to flow, and the relevance of them, and the landlady, seem at first a little forced: this all starts to make sense, though, as the play goes on. Although Stories may sound like a sob-story, we can assure you it's more like an unputdownable novel you’ll want to re-read tomorrow.
Stories, Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PX. Tickets from £15, until 28 November 2018.
Last Updated 31 October 2018