Morality, matrimony and misdemeanours. How do you deal with the inevitable challenges of loving some one?
It seems strangely odd hearing a call to your seat whilst making a cup of coffee from the comfort of your own home. Your seat being a wheelie chair at a desk, and the theatre a small screen which you usually associate with TV and film. And yet, the Old Vic have led the way in attempting to return audiences to the theatre with a new series of live broadcasts directly from the venue, commencing with Duncan MacMillan’s ‘Lungs’ directed by Matthew Warchus starring Matt Smith and Claire Foy.
MacMillan’s Lungs gives us an intimate involvement in a young couple’s challenges brought about by commitment and loss. From the minute the cameras start rolling, and we adjust to the reality of seeing actors… on a stage… performing…, we become flies on a wall experiencing all the quibbles and squabbles, the arguments or ‘are they conversations?’, that are very relatable to almost everyone who has ever had a difference in opinion. The idea of watching two people on a screen arguing for 90 minutes sounds undoubtedly tedious, however, with MacMillan’s wit and humanity, the conversation is frighteningly honest and poses frequent challenges which we all experience on a regular basis: “are we good people?”.
Foy and Smith, demonstrate how appropriate it is for Lungs to be the first of the series, not only due to social distancing guidelines being achievable for the duo, but in understanding how to engage an audience with limited support from the many creatives on furlough whilst awaiting the governments 5 step roadmap to theatres reopening. The simplicity with which they address one another whilst covering up so much distress and anxiety creates a real familiarity that exists within each of us; especially considering the challenges we face during lockdown.
Director Mathew Warchus and associate Katy Rudd have designed a space where, despite the government’s guidelines keeping the actors apart, they appear, through multiple clever camera angles and adjustments, to be as intimate as if side by side. This craftsmanship in design leads to moments of compelling atmosphere even when watching through a lens on the other side of London; which is something unique to the power of theatre and human connection in the here and now.
Whilst I cannot deny that some of the magic of live theatre is lost sitting alone at a screen without the contagious laughter from others, it is a great testament challenging anyone who doubts the necessity of the arts. Whether it be the soaps and daytime TV or blockbuster films that keep you sane in lockdown, MacMillan’s Lungs will give you more than a few hours respite; it will engage you in a way that makes you consider your own morals, matrimony and misdemeanours.