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  • Dress Circle Reviews

Lungs at The Old Vic Live Stream

We were so excited when The Old Vic announced they were re-doing last year’s hit play Lungs and reuniting Claire Foy and Matt Smith once again. And that excitement was well founded.

With 8 performances, each live streamed, The Old Vic stated loud and clear, after 100 days, that theatre is back and will fight for its survival. And they chose an incredible show to kick off with. Filmed from the back of the famous stage staring out into the beautiful yet empty auditorium it’s a reminder how far apart we are but this production has brought a whole community of theatre lovers together.

“Lungs” focuses on the life of one couple who are discussing whether to have a baby and what it means to bring a baby into the world as it is now. It touches on too many things to cover all of them adequately in one production and chooses to focus most on climate change, being a timely reminder of the challenges the planet faces outside the immediate crisis. The analogy that having a child is “giving birth to the Eiffel Tower” is something we’ll remember for a while. The script Duncan Macmillan has written explores some of these challenges alongside creating intricate characters and an engaging story which is brought to life by two outstanding performances.

Having been last seen together in Neflix’s “The Crown” casting Claire Foy and Matt Smith must have been a marketer’s dream. But these characters are a big departure from the royals they played and really demonstrate their acting versatility and prowess. This show cements their position as stars. The characters are complex, discussing their own desires for a family balanced with their fears for the world and the sacrifices they choose to make, as well as focusing in on their relationship and what they need from each other. With very little set they are not able to rely on any theatrics, it is just them on stage telling a powerful story.

With just the two people on stage it was relatively easy to ensure social distancing was maintained but was a show which requires a certain amount of intimacy which they overcame with clever camera work. The production is shown with a split screen, a camera focused on each of the protagonists. While they maintain distance, when they need to be close the cameras depict this, even having them seemingly sat back to back at one point. When they did need to be far apart the cameras pulled back to show this and the vast space between them at these times stood in stark contrast to the intimacy of the moments. Even with streaming they were still able to create some of that theatre magic.

It’s a different way to watch theatre and while the streams and recordings will never match up to the live experience this was a fantastic substitute while we await being able to get back into theatres in person. The Old Vic tried to make it as close to the real experience as possible, including your 3 minute warning announcements and making each performance live. But we did miss hearing the audience reactions, especially applause, which must be an even more jarring experience for the cast. Far from satiating our appetite it has made us more eager to get back to seeing live productions. For now we hope theatres find more shows to live stream (which may become easier as larger ‘bubbles’ become allowed), helping to keep the audience satisfied and ensuring they can survive long term.

At the time of writing there were tickets available for July 4th matinee production. Please also support The Old Vic if you can so they can continue to deliver world class theatre, both now and when they re-open.


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