Dorfman, National Theatre, London – until 28 November 2018
What a difference a few years makes: at 35, Bobbie hasn’t decided on pretty much anything in her life; at 39 however, Anna is resolute that she wants to make big changes in her life. Specifically, in the aftermath of a messy break-up with someone who didn’t want one, she’s determined to become a mother. Such is the world of Nina Raine’s new play Stories and as with Company, there’s so much more layered in here than the headlines might suggest.
The focus does indeed first seem to be on fertility, as Claudie Blakley’s Anna debates, with her family, the ethics of sourcing sperm donors online and then rifles through her little black book to see if any of her exes would be up for donating a few of their best swimmers. But the scope is always wider than that, probing at the stories we are told stretching from bedtimes tales to the societal myths that we are sold and what that does to a mindset over the years.
Raine directs Stories herself, employing an unfussy design from Jeremy Herbert which splits the Dorfman’s stage in traverse and finding a keen economy in the sparseness of the presentation. This allows Blakley’s Anna to effectively tread the line between obsession and determination in her quest, never losing sight of her innate charm. And Sam Troughton is an absolute blast as he cycles through the men littered through her past, micro-portraits of all-too-recognisable masculinity, also struggling with societal expectation.
Around them there’s strong support Brian Vernel, Margot Leicester and Stephen Boer, and Thusitha Jayasundera really stands out as a friend of Anna’s astonished by what she sees as a betrayal. Ultimately, Stories might not necessarily be too profound or truly enlightening, but it does speak to the ways in which a plan for life can lead you most astray and I did find it entertaining and impeccably acted.