Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Two wonderful performances bring to life the worries, guilt and ambitions of this young middle class couple.
Paines Plough in the Roundabout tent at Summerhall again. An in-the-round, arena-like space where no set will fit and no actor can stay still for very long, making the words of the play vulnerably foregrounded.
In Lungs, Abdul Salis and Sian Reese-Williams deliver Duncan Macmillan’s text at about a hundred miles per hour, covering a huge range of issues from the sometimes pornographic nature of their sex, to the carbon footprint of a newborn baby.
Scenes overlap and interrupt each other; time hops and leaps ahead with barely perceptible mood changes; props, actions and people are absent, not even mimed, only referenced. This draws us in, it forces us to imagine the rest of the scene. I’m certain that some people around me found this device particularly effective but, for me, at emotional moments, it seemed to leave the actors unanchored, a bit cold and not fully engaged, which left me a bit cold and not fully engaged.
The prenatal couple’s worries span from the macro – ‘are we contributing to overpopulation?’ – to the micro – ‘what if I don’t love it?’ They are dripping with middle class guilt and spend a long time assessing the right and responsibility to have a child. The drama for a long time feels manufactured until major events start happening – this is when I really sat up and listened.
As the play carries on, time passes quicker and quicker until the drama snowballs and the couple’s lives pass exponentially quickly. This is a beautiful part of the play which keeps us on our toes, having to constantly figure out where we are temporally and physically.
I think it might be something to do with having to be a mother or father, or a prospective parent, because I found it hard to connect with what was being said. Salis and Reese-Williams, however, are outstanding and look to be in complete control of this high-speed rollercoaster of a script. Their constant sparring is funny, tragic, and at times purposefully infuriating. Well chosen moments of silence are particularly special among this barrage of words.
I’m not sure what I took away from Lungs. It was hard to like these characters, I didn’t fully engage with their neuroses and I only started to get excited towards the end. It was, however, a bracing and intense hour at the theatre. What’s certain is that Paines Plough have found two very great performers in Abdul Salis and Sian Reece-Williams.