From sparkling jewels to “dressed-down urban strivers”, Claire Foy and Matt Smith star in this spectacular revival of ‘Lungs’ at the Old Vic Theatre in London
Directed by Matthew Warchus, this funny and emotional rollercoaster sees Claire Foy and Matt Smith reuniting for the first time since they worked alongside each other in the smash hit Netflix series The Crown.
A powerful, thought provoking two-hander about a young couple battling their own anxiety and moral dilemma about starting a family when the state of the planet is in crisis, feels as prescient today as it did when Duncan Macmillan (1984, People, Places & Things) wrote it ten years ago.
Warchus moves the original staging of the play from the bedroom to a minimalist, in-the-round set by Rob Howell which leaves Smith and Foy no where to hide. And they deliver!
Lungs is booking until 9 November at the Old Vic.
Read our round-up of reviews below.
Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
“Claire Foy and Matt Smith shine in climate crisis drama. Duncan Macmillan’s two-hander is a frenetic portrait of flawed love in a flawed world, exposing the neuroses of a modern couple who struggle to put their principles aside and their existential crisis is as much about sexual politics as it is about the environment.”
“Rob Howell’s set design, like the original, is minimalist to the extreme, empty but for a solar-panelled floor and two tiles on opposite sides propped up by rock crystals – a sly satirical reminder of the couple’s fashionable, new age environmentalism.”
“Foy and Smith manage the switches of mood and tone with a virtuosity that verges on ostentatious, and there are very few off-moments in pace. It is only the last sequence, in which times speeds up and characters, present and imagined, grow up, age or die within seconds, which feels rushed, gimmicky and riddled with cliche.”
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
”Claire Foy shines and Matt Smith glints in doomsday play.”
Both actors cope brilliantly with the technical and tonal challenges, although the scripted-sounded nature of their verbal emissions can irk and the characters are more like talking predicaments than fully rounded personae. Foy shines brightest, her thinking aloud exhilarating in its runaway force. Smith – seemingly unaged since his Dr Who prime, flexing action-man limbs, even performing press-ups – is good at glinting tenderness, ardency and sheepishness (there are philandering parallels to Philip).”
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
”Matt Smith and a luminous, mercurial Claire Foy give tour de force performances in this study of a couple’s struggles and doubts on the road to parenthood.”
“Duncan Macmillan’s play couldn’t be further from the world of their previous pairing in The Crown: it’s just the two of them as dressed-down urban strivers, on a nearly bare stage with an audience on all sides for 90 minutes, charting emotional peaks, troughs and plateaus with magnetic immediacy.”
“The script is often hilarious, frequently poignant, but also curiously old-fashioned in its portrayal of gender roles. Director Matthew Warchus orchestrates Macmillan’s overlapping, unfiltered dialogue masterfully. The scene where the two talk frankly about sex while trying to get pregnant is a riot.”
“The play tails off into a perfunctory epilogue that brings the couple’s story to a conclusion. Again, it doesn’t matter. Those lucky enough to secure a ticket to Lungs can revel in an acting masterclass from a perfect stage partnership. .”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
“Warchus’s revival is broader and more sitcommy than previous, more experimental productions of the play. The humour, in particular, succumbs to a few more cliches, leans a little too much on hoary truisms about the differences between men and women. But it also has more emotional weight.”
“Ultimately, ‘Lungs’ is about guilt: yes, that slightly wanky motivator known as ‘middle-class guilt’. But something deeper than that: guilt at having failed a partner, guilt at having failed a child, guilt at having failed your younger self… guilt at having failed the planet. Smith and Foy are always watchable, and ‘Lungs’ is funny throughout. But their performances – hers in particular – grow immeasurably in stature as the short play wears on, as they’re virtually crushed by the world until finally the world pretty much forces them to make a stand against it.”
“Historically, there have not been a lot of good plays about climate change. ‘Lungs’ isn’t a flat-out masterpiece: but it is a good play about climate change, and I hope this production has a life beyond its current brief stint. It’s not so much that it that tells us what we should be afraid of. It knows what we’re afraid of already – and there’s comfort in that.”
Sam Marlowe, The Arts Desk
“Deluxe casting and slick delivery. Claire Foy and Matt Smith elevate Duncan Macmillan’s rather toothless parenting drama.”
“There’s a level of skill and intelligence to its fraught, circuitous exchanges that hints at the dazzling writer Macmillan has become. Despite fine performances from its two stars in a neat, deft production by Matthew Warchus, however, it’s a bland, self-regarding affair that feels decidedly longer than its 80-minute duration. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion may be keeping environmental issues in the headlines, but a similar sense of urgency is scarce here: beneath a faint greenwash of larger ideas, the piece is far more preoccupied with domestic politics. And like a mewling infant yet to cut its milk teeth, it lacks bite.”
“Ultimately, this is an unremarkable play that has been lavished with luxury casting – and while there’s nothing uniquely demanding about these roles, it’s Smith and Foy that make it worthwhile. Plenty of new and prospective parents will probably nod along with the drama’s anxieties and wryly humorous observations. And, no argument: it’s slickly delivered.”
Marianka Swain , The Broadway World
“Matthew Warchus’s production brings a playfulness to proceedings, so that the angst is balanced out by wry recognition of relationship dynamics.”
“Played in the round, Warchus’s stripped-back staging puts all focus on them, and the blocking is hugely effective: they’re often pulled apart to opposite sides of the stage, like lovers on either side of a growing chasm, or two fighters in the ring.”
“However, there is an inescapably middle-class cosiness to Macmillan’s piece, and a certain conventionality too in focussing on a white, metropolitan, heterosexual pair who never really question the socially accepted baby-making, or that it might not be all-important and self-defining. Though they fret about the global warming implications of procreation, and very briefly consider adoption, it’s a fairly inevitable outcome.”
“It might not hold the whole conversation, but it certainly starts one – and does so while also telling a very human story.”
Average rating score for this production:
Date: 24 October 2019
Written by: Chris Raven
Tags: Claire Foy, Duncan Macmillan, Lungs, Matt Smith, Matthew Warchus, The Old Vic