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Theatre review: Lungs: In Camera

The social
distance
between
them: Foy
and Smith
are filmed
on stage at
the empty
Old Vic
PICTURE: MANUEL HARLAN

REVIEW

Lungs: In Camera

oldvictheatre.com★★★★✩

THE future of theatre feels as dark as the Old Vic auditorium looks in this Zoom-led production of Duncan Macmillan’s climate change two-hander, first performed here by The Crown’s Matt Smith and Claire Foy last year.

With no clear opening date, and no stimulus package on the horizon, theatres are having to innovate like never before to plot their survival.

Few, though, have come up with a response as scintillating as this: a live, ticketed, socially distanced remount of a hit show, with Smith and Foy reunited as the angsty middle-class couple debating whether to have a baby, albeit performing to row upon row of yawningly empty seats.

Smith and Foy’s natural chemistry is on easy display here as, on a bare stage with minimal lighting, both messily argue and backtrack on whether to bring another human being into a melting, overcrowded world across a series of short, jagged scenes that lurch forward in time.

Foy in particular seems to never stop talking, spewing out frantic gobbets of anxiety and counter-thinking on the ethics of parenthood and whether giving up her life to the care of another is something she even wants to do.

Their narcissistic obsession with whether they are good, morally upstanding people (hey, we recycle!) is deftly skewered by Macmillan but without, perhaps, sufficient savagery — we are more comforted than discomforted by seeing ourselves in their clashing, fevered need for reassurance.

Matthew Warchus’s production, filmed using two cameras so both actors poignantly appear in different frames, gains in rough and ready urgency what it loses in finesse.

The final scene, steeped in apocalyptic signifiers, feels a tad glib. Instead, it’s the closing moments, as the pair try to make contact from opposite sides of a pane of glass, that tap most powerfully into our current moment of yearning and fearful disconnection.

Available until Sat via oldvictheatre.com