Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington
22/10/2016 - 19/11/2016
“I could fly to New York and back every day for seven years and still not leave a carbon footprint as big as if I have a child. Ten thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower.”
A new production from Circa Theatre asks if bringing a baby into today’s world of over-population, global warming, and political unrest is the right thing to do for our planet.
Written by critically acclaimed British playwright Duncan Macmillan, LUNGS is a hilarious and moving story about love in unstable times, as a young couple tries to decide their future. Thirty-something, educated and thoughtful, they are running out of time to have the child (they think) they (probably) want. But with the world falling apart, how can you justify bringing a kid into it? And what will destruct first – the planet or their relationship?
With strict instructions from the playwright that there is to be no set, props, or costume changes, and lighting or sound mustn’t be used to convey the passage of time, LUNGS is a raw theatre piece that pulls the focus onto the incredibly insightful script and the two performers on stage charged with delivering it.
In a case of art imitating life, husband and wife team Dean Hewison and Adrianne Roberts will be bringing LUNGS to Wellington. They saw the play in Edinburgh Festival Fringe and were immediately drawn to the clever script and the utter believability of the characters. “Adrianne saw the show before me and said I should really get along. Some of what I saw on stage eerily echoed conversations we’ve had, and some of it echoed thoughts I’d kept to myself,” says Dean who is directing the Wellington premiere. “Both of us agreed that it’s a play that needs to be seen, and the idea of us working on it together is exciting to us both.”
This hilarious and profound play by Macmillan (who also wrote this year’s NZ Festival hit Every Brilliant Thing) has played to sell-out audiences in Edinburgh, London, Melbourne and around the world. Performers Arthur Meek (Hillary Clinton / Young Lover) and Aidee Walker (TV’s Step Dave) are cast as the young couple, with this being Aidee’s Circa debut.
A play about a relationship trying to survive on a crumbling planet, LUNGS is much more than just eco-warrior propaganda. This heartfelt, honest, funny and bare theatrical piece brims with dark humour, raw emotion and confronting questions for our generation.
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St WELLINGTON
22 Oct – 19 Nov 2016 (Preview 21 Oct)
Buy tickets through CIRCA
Phone 04 801 7992
Starring Aidee Walker, Arthur Meek
Lighting Design by Glenn Ashworth
Sound Design by Emi Pogoni
Unique and intriguing
Review by Ewen Coleman 25th Oct 2016
Although rather obvious, for couples to communicate their thoughts and feelings, they need to talk, to have a conversation with each other. Which is the premise on which British playwright Duncan Macmillan has based his play Lungs, currently playing in the Circa Studio.
And although the play spans many locations and many years in the life of the two characters, he asks that his play be performed on a bare stage with no set, furniture or props, which this production, under director Dean Hewison, faithfully adheres to. [More]
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Engaging, exciting, entertaining and vital
Review by John Smythe 23rd Oct 2016
The title – Lungs – reminds me of the hot summer’s night in London about a quarter of a century ago, when I saw Ben Elton’s first play, Gasping, from the Gallery (above the Upper Circle) in the Theatre Royal Haymarket. His premise was that fresh air was in short supply, a device had been invented to make ‘Perrier for the lungs’, oxygen had been privatised and corporate greed had now rendered it unaffordable for the masses.
It was set in the rarefied atmosphere of Lockheart Industries’ office tower, high above the gasping populace. Ironically for the audience in that old theatre, the higher we were the more we were gasping. At the end someone smashed the floor-to-ceiling window. That’s the bit I remember most. And that’s one way to dramatise planet Earth’s environmental crisis.
Circa Two is a much more audience-friendly space and playwright Duncan Macmillan (also British) addresses the environmental questions in a very different way, through a couple contemplating having a child and with a theatrically ingenious simplicity. Whereas Elton depicts a corporate culture where shareholder dividends and executive bonuses are paramount, Macmillan grounds his play in a male-female relationship impacted by their sense of responsibility to the planet.
There is no set, no furniture or props, no costume changes; just two actors – Aidee Walker and Arthur Meek – in an empty ¾-round space we fill with our imaginations, sparked by cues in the dialogue: a checkout queue at Briscoes, the carpark, in a car, in their home, their bed, their dreams … And it’s all provoked by her reaction – “A baby?” – to something he’s just said, just thinking aloud.
Initially I wonder why director Dean Hewison hasn’t used the constraints of imagined locations to dramatic effect; it seems odd that they are so physically free and loud as they encounter the question of parenthood in Briscoes. When their fraught but civilised conversation continues ‘in the car’ but they’re standing back-to-back, I realise Hewison (who is also a film director) is using a split-screen camera-framing convention.
It soon becomes clear the focus is on the changing dynamics between this (unnamed) couple as their seamless conversation continues over hours, days, weeks, months … There’s no miming of props or places; we’re getting the essence of their story as one may recollect it soon after or years later.
It does emerge that she is completing a PhD in some sort of environmental science and he is a freelance musician, which has implications if he is indeed to become a father. Their respective parents are also referred to, briefly. While whole backstories and potential parallel storylines are just hinted at, we accept their existence instantly. Indeed some of the biggest shock-of-recognition/ release-of-tension laughs come from such fleeting glimpses. There are lots of very big laughs on opening night.
It’s a big ask for the actors to traverse the whole lifetime of their relationship within 70 nonstop minutes, yet Walker and Meek accomplish it with astonishing fluency, hitting the full range of emotional marks, moment by moment, with as much authenticity as one might hope to get after multiple takes over hours of shooting for just one scene.
Aidee Walker validates every detail of the play’s remarkable insights into her voluble and volatile character’s complex female psyche. The undeniable truth of her performance compels our empathy no matter what she does. Spending most of the time at the effect of her choices and mood-swings, Arthur Meek nails his character’s phases of attraction, bewilderment, loss and assertiveness with equally captivating truth.
So where do lungs come into it? At the micro level, we discover she smokes, which of course is an issue when pregnancy is on the agenda. And he … [spoiler averted]. At the macro level, the way our lifestyle choices impact the whole ecosystem are an ever-present dimension of this personal relationship story. As immediate realities are confronted and choices are made, we contemplate a future where the world is covered in ash.
I’m avoiding detailing any more of the richly variegated story because the play and production rivets our attention every step of the way, as we want – nay, need – to know what choices will be made and what will happen as a result. And there is so much story packed into this play. At about the 65 minute mark it feels as if we have binge-watched a 13-part series on Netflix. The last five minutes is like watching the trailer for the next two series with only the final scene played out in ‘real time’. If you see it more than once you may well pick things up that passed you by at the first sitting.
The thirty-something couple in Lungs are educated, middle class, thoughtful, articulate and want to be good people, for each other and for the good of the planet, not to mention the generations to come (to take an optimistic view). Lungs’ target audience, then, clearly includes most regular theatre-goers. It’s also a play you could introduce people (say 15 and over) to theatre with – and absolutely ideal for reigniting the interest of anyone whose opinion of live theatre has become jaded.
As an exercise in generating engaging, exciting and entertaining theatre, Lungs exemplifies the adage that less is more. Whether you see it as a play about how personal choices affect the planet, or how the fate of the planet impacts our personal choices, this production is vital in every sense of the word.
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