The Theatreguide.London Review
Old Vic Theatre Autumn 2019
A rom-com staple since
Shakespeare or before, the couple obviously made for each other but
seemingly determined to get in their own way are given a few
twenty-first-century twists in Duncan Macmillan's new two-hander.
While there can never be
any real doubt about how things are going to
turn out, it is the elegance of the dance, and the original bits of
filigree around the edges, that keep us happy and engaged.
Smith) chooses a shopping trip to Ikea to suggest to her (Claire Foy)
that they might perhaps begin to consider the possibility of maybe
thinking about having a baby.
The prospect sets them
both off into a
spin of panic, complicated by their shared – if differently
manifested – need to choose exactly the right words to say what
they mean even when they're not sure what they mean.
In her case this
takes the form of breathless manic near-gabbling as the words come
faster than the thoughts, while he is driven to near-muteness by the
fear of saying the wrong thing (which, of course, he does – 'Are
you being hormonal now or just nasty?')
Because the play is set
the here and now, they can't help being aware of global warming,
which repeatedly and comically becomes a metaphor for or deflection
from their more immediate concerns, as when they find themselves
working out the mathematics of a baby's carbon footprint.
must constantly reassure themselves that they are being politically
correct ('We're Good People. We watch subtitled films.')
ninety-minute play is structured as one continuous conversation, it
is soon clear that it a string of encounters leaping over first days,
then months and finally years.
What is for the first
half a string
of comic variations on crosstalk and non-communication grows more
serious when tragedy strikes and their inability to express
themselves openly means that they aren't there for each other when
But it is no spoiler to
say that things do eventually
work out, even if the playwright has to inject huge doses of
sentimentality to get there.
Playwright Macmillan and
Matthew Warchus somewhat limit their actors by giving each of them
little more than a single note – manic gabbling for her, stumbling
incoherence for him – to play throughout.
And it is a credit to
both performers that they do as much as they do to find variations on
their simple melodies and to flesh out the characters, holding our
attention and sympathy.
Even at ninety minutes Lungs lingers on a bit too long, always in danger of losing its focus. Somewhere inside it is a really first-rate one-hour TV play.
Receive alerts every time we post a new review.