entertainment

Review | 'Stories' at the National Theatre explores issues of sperm donation

Find out what Matthew Hyde thought of the new production at the London venue

2018-10-19

Anna is 39, single and desperate to have a baby. She explores various options available to her with increasing loneliness and desperation.

She shops online from a sperm website which is as cold and clinical as an Amazon purchase. Alongside this she meets up with various failed partners from her past and simply asks them to donate with hilarious and awkward results.

It’s a funny and moving journey that leaves you feeling entertained yet rather conflicted.

Interestingly, Anna isn’t portrayed as exactly likeable. She makes subtly racist comments about potential donors and how it will affect the skin colour of her child.

As a theatre writer/director she makes derogatory remarks about actors and is insensitive when asking a friend for their partner’s sperm.

Despite this, Claudie Blakley gives a wonderful performance as Anna who is on stage the entire time. Facially she is so expressive that every thought or feeling, however tiny, is shown.

Internally there is something going on all the time and it’s riveting to watch. Despite Anna’s questionable likability Blackley gives her a warmness and compassion that is completely engaging.

Sam Troughton has the daunting task of playing six of her past flings and he is fantastic. His characters are hilarious and entertaining, however that’s all they tend to be.

A more natural and truthful portrayal would give more weight but you can’t help but appreciate the laughter and admire Troughton’s obvious skill.

There is strong support from the rest of the cast, in particular Brian Vernol as Anna’s supportive brother who delivers some blistering one-liners. Stephen Boxer and Margot Leicester as the parents add an entertaining bohemian oddness to the family.

The play does attempt to examine the more serious issues that can affect a person who was conceived through sperm donation. This production however misses the opportunity to say anything especially profound but by contrast it is highly entertaining.

Rating – 4*

Stories plays at the National Theatre until 28th November

Words by Matthew Hyde