Recycling properly, buying coffee from independent coffee shops, donating to the latest global crisis, considering a more eco-friendly car… these are but some of the daily dilemmas facing the thirty-something couple in Duncan MacMillan’s intimate, clever two hander. The thought of having a baby engulfs their world and casts light upon how humanity lives today.
Set in a nameless but familiar city, the nameless (but familiar) characters greet the audience while having an argument in Ikea. “A baby?” The female half of the couple is initially shocked. “It’s like you punched me in the face and then asked me a maths question.”
Lungs a realistic rom-com built around intelligent, modern couple, but also uses the question of whether to create a new life to provide a commentary on contemporary society. The thought of making a baby is not just a question between two potential parents. The self-aware characterisation of the couple gives this love story a poignant underlying critique of how we live today.
Abdul Salis and Sian Reese-Williams both give note-worthy performances, breathing life into the couple, making the audience erupt with laughter and come close to tears within moments of one another. As they debate whether bringing a new life into today’s world is a sensible option, they cast light upon global environmental issues, overpopulation, adoption, international wars and the financial crisis.
To maintain the verisimilitude of their relationship, they also approach more personal matters: their genetic pools, the likability of each other’s parents and their jobs (he is initially a musician, she a PhD student). Despite alluding to huge, complex matters, the script manages to approach them in a digestible and often humorous manner.
This is one of four plays by three contemporary playwrights (Duncan MacMillan, Dennis Kelly and Alexandra Wood) that form the Roundabout season, run by renowned new writing hub Paines Plough. Each is performed in the same pop-up in-the-round theatre, which will tour the country with the same ensemble following its month-long residency in Edinburgh. Lungs is presented with no props, scene changes or set, an approach which works well; it intensifies the fast pace, skill of the writing and tumultuous emotions of the characters, and encapsulates the audience into the world of the remarkably human couple.
‘We’re good people’, they repeat to both themselves and each other throughout the play – despite the fact that both of them are displaying nasty flaws. That serves, perhaps, as a reflection of how the Western world might view itself, when it knows deep down that it is causing more harm than good.
So Lungs draws viewers in with its human story, and ends with a serious message. Poignant, funny, and relevant. Duncan MacMillian’s exciting play is – as you’d expect – a brilliant choice from Paines Plough.