Nina Raine’s debut play is a portrayal of a single woman on the cusp of her thirties. Faced with a myriad of expectations, she finds herself drowning in anxiety about her future.
It’s Bella’s 29th birthday. A select group of friends and former lovers meet for a drink to celebrate. They discuss sex and work and are simultaneously repelled and attracted by each other. Lively banter turns to personal insult as the bar becomes a gender battlefield. However, what they don’t know is that Bella’s father is terminally ill. His cancerous tumour becomes a metaphor for all the things his daughter perceives as wrong with her life – her overpaid but shallow job, her romantic dalliances that end in strife but most of all, the worry that she’s not living up to other people’s expectations.
Set over the course of one raucous evening, the scenes with Bella’s dying father are told in flashback but woven seamlessly into the main action of the play. The characters’ frank discussion about and subsequent enactment of the battle of the sexes struck a chord with theatregoers and critics alike, who hailed Raine as a distinctive new voice.
Having tried and failed to get her play produced by the major theatres, Raine eventually mounted her own production at tiny fringe venue the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2006. The play was a big success and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End before playing at the Brits Off Broadway festival in New York in 2007. Raine was subsequently awarded the Critics’ Circle and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright.