Photo © Marc Brenner

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. Required fields are marked *

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 suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

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