Theatre Review: Lungs

October 21, 2019Hels

“And we’ll have a conversation and we’ll just try to do the right thing. Because we’re good people. Right? And we’ll plant forests. I mean it. We’ll cycle everywhere. We’ll grow our own food if we have to. We’ll never take another plane. We’ll just stay right here. And we’ll plant forests.”

Duncan Macmillan – Lungs

Starring: Claire Foy, Matt Smith
Directed by: Matthew Warchus
Written by: Duncan Macmillan
Currently showing at: The Old Vic Theatre

My rating:
Cast:10 out of 10 stars (10 / 10)
Plot:9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)
Ending:8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)


Duncan Macmillan’s play, Lungs is an incredibly intimate piece of theatre. One act, two characters, witty, unfiltered dialogue, and a subject that is extremely relevant today. It depicts an unnamed couple panicking about whether they should have a child in the face of a climate catastrophe and debating whether they are “good” people. The show starts off with fast-paced, almost frantic dialogue, an argument in IKEA which I imagine many people can relate to, but gradually as the stories develop and the characters grow, there are more silences, more moments to think.

The staging is minimal, a small stage of what looks like solar panels, and the in-the-round style seating leaves the actors exposed no matter where they turn. There are no costume changes (I also now really want a pair of dungarees) and the couple are on stage for the entire performance, and manage to move seamlessly from scene to scene.

I think the casting for Lungs is absolutely spot-on. Claire Foy and Matt Smith, who created such a dynamic partnership in The Crown, are incredible. Matt Smith is charming, funny, a little smug at times, and the more laid-back of the two. The character didn’t seem too much of a stretch from some other roles I’ve seen him in, but I thought he showed the development of the character brilliantly. Claire Foy is absolutely exceptional. I loved the way she raced through her thought process, skilfully navigating the dialogue. I’m currently seven months pregnant and found that a lot of her fears and concerns are things I’ve thought about over the last few months as well. I think Foy’s character is loveable and her comic-timing is spot-on – I wasn’t expecting the play to be as funny as it was. The scene where the two of them are trying for a baby but end up having a very open and honest discussion about sex is hilarious. The chemistry between the couple is evident, you can clearly see how well the pair get on, and it was an absolute privilege to watch them act together. 

Considering Lungs lasts less than an hour and a half, they manage to fit a considerable amount in. There are numerous plot twists, even as the play is drawing to a close. The ending demonstrates that the play is about climate change, but it doesn’t go over-the-top or too dystopian. I don’t think the ending needed to be as final as it was, and I think it felt a little predictable, but that didn’t remotely take away from my enjoyment of the show. 

Lungs is showing at The Old Vic until 9th November

Photos by Helen Maybanks, used with permission

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