A few weeks ago I received an email from The Old Vic advertising their live, socially distanced, performance of Lungs, and I immediately set a reminder on my phone to buy tickets on the release date. I’ve been missing the theatre terribly, although I feel very lucky that the National Theatre have been releasing plays on a weekly basis on Youtube, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to once again enjoy the world I love and support an organisation that I really care about.
I’ve seen many productions at The Old Vic, including the last play I saw before lockdown, Endgame, and the idea that it and so many other theatres are in danger of closing down as a consequence of Covid-19 is heartbreaking. Some may think this sounds melodramatic, but theatres are often safe spaces for marginalised groups, breaking new ground, and although the theatre industry still has a long way to go with its inclusivity, it would be an indescribable shame for it to disappear.
I was disappointed that I didn’t have the chance to see Lungs while it was in the theatre, having heard great reviews from friends, so you can imagine how happy I was when The Old Vic announced that it would be their first production since lockdown began. The play, written by Duncan Macmillan, tells the story of a couple, played by Clare Foy and Matt Smith, trying to decide whether they should have a baby considering the rapidly decaying state of the climate. What I had not expected from this description were lines that would have me howling with laughter. The script is so realistically hilarious with Foy’s rambling speeches feeling genuinely anxiety driven, whilst also providing comic relief from some heavy topics.
The story glides effortless from joy to despair and anger to heartbreak. I really connected with Foy’s character and her constant overthinking. I felt like I went on her journey with her and all of the emotions she felt towards Smith’s character I mirrored. To me, this demonstrates how powerful both of their performances were, and, although I have a great passion for sets I was not in anyway distracted or disappointed by the absence of scenery or lighting. The stripped back production gave a much more intimate feel to the play which I think is unique to this type of streamed performance. At first I thought the split screen filming would be a constant reminder that I was watching a stream and would therefore disconnect me from the story, but in fact, it enabled me to focus on each actor’s performance without being drawn in and out or backwards and forwards across the stage.
My only criticism would be that I was expecting a stronger environmental story line and to me it was more of an emotional couples drama. I still thoroughly enjoyed the plot, I just think an opportunity was missed to impress upon the audience the immediate need for action to stop climate change reaching a state where its effects are irreversible.
I believe all of the tickets for Lungs have now sold out, but keep your eyes peeled in the future, because if this play is anything to go by, future productions will be more than worth it!
Also if you have any money spare at the moment and feel like donating some to The Old Vic please click the link below:
I know there are lots of great causes to donate to right now and it can be hard to work out how much to give to each, so just do what’s right for you. Also remember that there are others ways to support organisations such as buying memberships or vouchers, whether these are for yourself or as presents for others.