by Duncan Macmillan.
Tour to 18 October 2015.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 August at Summerhall Edinburgh.
Another brilliant thing from playwright Macmillan.
Paines Plough’s moveable Roundabout auditorium resembles a smaller, single-storey – and somewhat more austere – version of Manchester’s theatre-in-the-round, the Royal Exchange. It’s a delightfully democratic space, suitably intimate for a piece like Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, one in a repertoire of modern plays from this new work company.
Macmillan is a high-achiever with long single-act dramas. Lungs is elliptically titled, though smoking and carbon footprints tread throughout a telescoped love story of a western middle-class relationship between two people stood between youth and middle-age. Lines rattle back and forth between the characters, precise, fragmentary yet often joined at the hip – not the stuttering overflows of a David Mamet play but the willed cooperation of a relationship where two people are eager to get on with life but stay tied-up in the anxieties of the ethically aware.
Gradually, Macmillan lets on that time is rapidly passing, and passing them by. In a device going back at least to Murray Schisgal’s 1963 play The Typists, moments for decision pass into months of indecision and decades of essential stasis. Yet when this pair act on a major decision, the consequences throw them back – the only moment of clear manipulation in Macmillan’s script.
Lungs’ organic vitality comes from a tight focus on the performers. Both are excellent (neither created their role, though they seem to the script’s manner born), with no barrier between themselves, script and audience. They face each other across the empty space or pace around without a moment’s let-up in energy or concentration.
Audiences too need to be on their toes while sitting around. A line might be responding to something said a moment before in the performance, but in the action it might be separated by place or a gap in time. The briefest pause in speech, a change in position, or variation in tone can imply a significant shift. Sian Reese-Williams, often leading these, needs to be even more deft than Abdul Salis.
Expertly conveyed in George Perrin’s production, this all gives a bright theatrical edge and richness to the experience of watching a pinpoint production of a never-flagging drama.
Cast: Sian Reese-Williams, Abdul Salis.
Director: George Perrin.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Movement: Kate Sagovsky.
Associate sound: Dom Kennedy.
Tour Roundabout @:
24, 26, 28, 30 Aug 10.30pm Summerhall Edinburgh 0131 560 1581 www.summerhall.co.uk
12 Sep 7.45pm Corn Exchange Newbury 0845 521 8218 www.cornexchangenew.com
16, 18, 19 Sep Wed 7pm; Fri 2pm; Sat 7.30pm The Lowry Salford 0843 208 6000 www.thelowry.com
23, 25, 26 Sep Wed 8pm; Fri 8.30pm; Sat 7pm Lincoln Performing Arts Centre 01522 837600 www.lpac.co.uk
30 Sep, 2, 3 Oct Wed 7pm; Fri, Sat 7.30pm Brewery Arts Centre Kendal 01539 725133 www.breweryarts.co.uk
7-11 Oct (precise dates not available) Theatre Royal Margate 01843 292795 www.theatreroyalmargate.com
16-18 Oct Fri 7.30pm Sun 6.30pm Albion Square Hanley 01782 454404 appetitestoke.co.uk