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John Yap

Review: LUNGS at The Old Vic

Lungs - Old Vic The “Ups and Downs” of life, relationships and the Earth’s health is succinctly conveyed through the naturalistic performances of Matt Smith and Claire Foy in Duncan Macmillan’s “new” play LUNGS.

MacMillan first wrote the 70 minute script for Paines Plough in 2012. For The Old Vic, he has expanded it to 90 minutes.

Casting two TV and Film stars has paid off because the entire run at the Old Vic is almost sold out. Matt Smith (The Crown and Dr. Who (TV), Pride and Prejudice (Film)) and Claire Foy (The Crown and Wolf Hall (TV), Season of the Witch (Film)) give very strong, committed and convincing performances that are to be admired.

We are drawn into their relationship right at the start of the play, with a simple statement, “Let’s have a baby”. Questions and complications immediately start to contaminate their young and sexually active relationship.

Being politically and environmentally minded as well as educated, they start questioning the wisdom and responsibility of bringing another life into the World. “Will they be good parents?”, “Is it fair to bring a life into an environmentally unstable and damaged Earth?”, “Are they committed to each other for life?”, “Will they be able to sacrifice their lifestyles for the child?” Etc.

The miscarriage of the baby changes their lives and their sexual relationship and they separate as a result. A chance meeting many years later rekindles their feelings and passion and they conceive another baby. He jilts his then “fiancée” to get married to her. Understandably she wonders whether they’ll live “happily ever after” this time.

They’re an educated and informed “middle class” couple, affluent young 30 somethings who enjoy reading, having “conversations” and are socially and environmentally aware of Nature and their surroundings. Will those who don’t share their lifestyle be able to identify and empathize with them?

She is the dominant one in the relationship with most of the dialogue for over half of the play and as a result comes perilously close to becoming the cliche of a “nagging wife” It is a shame that for a two character piece, they are not more equally balanced.

As a result of this the denouement doesn’t quite come off and is not as moving as it should be.

Never the less Claire Foy gives a bravado performance blasting through everything required of her without pausing for a second. Matt Smith is equally good as the quite, understanding and supportive Man.

Matthew Warchus’s economic direction of MacMillan’s 7 years old “new” play is clear, clean and compelling. The simple open set by Rob Howell is perfect for all the different locations and time span.

Overall, however, an interesting 60 minute play about the minutiae of relationships is hindered by the injection of an extra 30 minutes of dialogue about environmental issues which adds very little.

Lungs tickets