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Review of Stories at The National Theatre

Stories - Photo by Sarah M Lee
Stories – Photo by Sarah M Lee

Nina Raine’s follow up to the hugely successful Consent confirms that, after a series of duds, the National is back on track. Stories nicely caps a good year for the theatre and is definitely one of their best recent productions.

Eighteen characters are played by seven actors in the intimate and minimalist Dorfman set, the action taking place on a stage surrounded by the audience on three sides. This is centre-stage all right but if like Consent, it is moved to the West End it’s doubtful whether the atmosphere created in this relatively small space would work. Personally, I doubt it but perhaps we will find out one day.

Sam Troughton expertly plays six parts; complemented by the excellent Brian Vernel. I was relieved to find each new character introduced by having his name projected onto the stage, and also conveniently being displayed on the captions. I was lucky enough to be there for a captioned performance, and without the captions, it would have been confusing: especially given the use of few props – a change of cap here and a coat there. That said, Troughton’s performance was outstanding.

Stories takes a close, intense look at just about every kind of two-way relationship; girlfriend/ex, sister/brother, mother/daughter, gay/straight to name a few: we even get an insight as to how the dog is feeling, all within the context of a woman approaching middle age whose body clock alarm is getting louder and louder. Claudie Blakley’s Anna is first-rate and develops well: her anxiety increasing as time goes on and the judgements made of her become polarised. The way she is judged by the men compared to the women comes under scrutiny, a telling criticism of our current society.

Stories is a quality play; it combines complex and some deeply personal issues with a wealth of wicked gags and robust dialogue. It works.

4 stars

Review by Michael Stephenson

Stories
How do you have a baby when you’re 39 and single?
Anna is ready for children. The only problem: she’s recently been dumped.
Determined to start a family of her own, Anna sets off on an eye-opening, hilarious and heart-warming journey to have a baby and write her own story.

Production team
Director – Nina Raine
Designer – Jeremy Herbert
Lighting Designer – Bruno Poet
Music and Sound – Alex Baranowski
Movement Director – Jane Gibson
Company Voice Work – Charmian Hoare
Casting – Amy Ball

Cast
Claudie Blakley
Stephen Boxer
Thusitha Jayasundera
Margot Leicester
Sam Troughton
Brian Vernel

Stories
a new play by Nina Raine
Playing until 28 November 2018
Running Time: Approx. 2hrs 15mins including interval

Dorfman Theatre
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

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