‘Lungs’ review – Claire Foy and Matt Smith act with urgency in punchy climate change drama

The Crown stars are an unstoppable force in Duncan Macmillan’s clever climate conversation – ★★★★

The Old Vic have breathed new life into Lungs by staging the Rosmersholm adapter’s play for 2019. In this revival, Matt Smith and Claire Foy are the couple who contemplate bringing “10,000 tonnes” of CO2 – or rather, a child – into our environmentally conscious world.

As a perfect pairing, Smith and Foy discuss the issue with a sizzling chemistry, despite their characters being the complete opposite of each other. Foy’s assured but doubtful W is certainly the most intriguing of the two individuals for her contradictions. This is compared to Smith’s M, a reserved musician, whose moments of exposition – while well-acted from an actor no stranger to intense monologues in Doctor Who – are occasional and short-lived.

While the couple have their differences, they are united by a shared lack of commitment and hesitation as they debate the guilt, morality and selfishness around the carbon footprint discussion. In a fascinating thought spiral we see the progression from motivation, to overthinking and then inaction. For the anxious individual like myself, alert to global warming’s dangers, but feeling so overwhelmed so as to not know where to start, the sentiment is incredibly striking.

Though there is much focus on the disparity and reluctance in Macmillan’s 90-minute production, Smith and Foy navigate the issue of climate change on Rob Howell (Matilda)’s smart, minimalist stage with the urgency one would expect. While it is to director Matthew Warchus’ credit that such continually fast pacing doesn’t lead to the subject matter being brushed over without detail, it is inevitable that the play’s conclusion does have a sense of feeling rushed or all too sudden.

Yet the wider message of individual action and decision-making isn’t lost amongst the hurry. There’s a lot that is devastating and hard-hitting in Lungs, but its reminder about the role we all play in the crisis is the most applicable, important and positive point made in Macmillan’s all too timely production.

Lungs is now playing at The Old Vic Theatre until 9 November.

Production Images: Helen Maybanks.

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