Stuffed review at Jack Studio Theatre, London – ‘heartfelt and strongly performed’
Inspired by co-writer Lucy Joy Russell’s personal experiences of IVF treatment, Stuffed follows 40-year-old Kim and her husband Jack’s increasingly attempt to conceive when there’s nothing apparently medically wrong with either of them except that nothing works.
Episodic in structure, Russell and Holly McFarlane’s play successfully highlights the financial and emotional expense of being prodded and pressurised by robotic doctors peddling inappropriate Powerpoint presentations, and the desperation that comes from putting false hope in quack treatments – though in Rory Fairbairn’s production, it feels more a little more like a series of scenes than an integrated whole.
Some of the jovial banter feels rather self-conscious and stilted and some of the supporting characters are very broadly written. The writing and performances are strongest in the tenderly affecting moments between Kim and her old university friend Grace (played with careworn warmth by Dorothy Cotter), now a mum of three, and finding an understanding with her fussing but kindly mother.
Fay Maughan’s performance as Kim is the compelling focal point of the production, especially once the rapport with Ben Scheck’s Jack is established. She gives a thoughtful portrayal of why the not naturally maternal Kim would find herself longing for a baby. The note of cautious optimism indicating that a life without children doesn’t have to be second best is certainly a worthwhile message for women and men to take away from a play opening on International Women’s Day.