Photo © Marc Brenner

Photo by Helen Maybanks

Lungs – Footnotes

Jun 28, 2020 | Footnotes | 0 comments

More observations about the play and the Old Vic In Camera performance with Claire Foy and Matt Smith that was broadcast live from 26th June 2020.

The Old Vic Theatre’s In Camera Performance

I joined the paying audience for the first broadcast of the Old Vic’s innovative live stream of their production of Lungs with Claire Foy and Matt Smith performing the play in front of the cameras but in the empty auditorium of the theatre. As I tuned in via my laptop and waited for the start, I heard through my headphones the background buzz of an audience, interrupted by the five and three minute warnings before curtain. I was surprisingly excited to feel part of this live event.

Here are a few of my observations from the performance and of the play after seeing it again:

George and I talked about the distinctive quality of the dialogue, and I was struck even more forcefully by the sheer pace of it hearing it live. The opening exchanges between the couple as they stand in the Ikea queue are astonishingly sharp. The energy of it is mesmerising, and you see in practice how two people who know each other so well interweave their patterns of thought and speech.

I was also reminded in the opening moments of their performances, how funny the play is. We talked a lot during the episode about the serious issues that the play raises, but perhaps less than we could have about how entertaining the repartee between them is, and how spot on the observations of daily life are.

We did remark during the podcast on the change in the rapid-fire dialogue when she embarks on the first long speech in the play, as she tries to process her thoughts about possible motherhood. Claire Foy delivers this beautifully. One can’t but be in awe at the way she maintains the insistent rhythm of the speech, her thoughts flowing out of her in one long, live stream, many unfinished but all distinct and connected.

I also enjoyed the thread through the play that references the couple’s relationships with their respective parents. Macmillan captures more common truths about the tensions between couples and their in-laws in particular, including parents not fully rating their child’s choice of partner, how we can criticise our own parents but defend them when our partner does, and even pretend that we all like each other when the opposite may be closer to the truth.

As we discussed in our conversation, the second half of the play becomes more emotionally substantial, which I felt especially in Claire Foy’s moving performance. In the moment following her miscarriage when she says quietly “I don’t know what I did wrong”, all of her confusion, grief, and guilt can be read in her face.

The final section of the play that fast forwards through their lives also painted a picture of apocalyptic events unfolding in the global climate. Forests have disappeared, flights are being grounded, and everything is covered in ash. These references reminded me that Macmillan wrote the play back in 2010/11, when the world was shocked by the explosion of the Icelandic volcano, and normal life was suspended on an unprecedented scale. A warning that may have seemed an anomaly then, feels all too commonplace now.

As the cast took their curtain call to the camera, I felt uplifted by this chance to experience “live” theatre, and was only sorry that I was not able to applaud so they could hear me.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays recommended by our Guests

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country