Lungs offers a real breath of fresh air

LUNGS

Sheffield Crucible

THERE was rapturous applause for the premiere of Lungs, the second of three new plays being performed in the Roundabout Auditorium, the specially built, transportable, 150-seat, wooden Colosseum from which spectators watch the 3D action in the small central arena below.

Duncan MacMillan’s latest play (his ‘Monster’ was a great success in 2007) is directed by passionate supporter of newer writers, Richard Wilson, the directing simplified by the playwright’s request for no scenery, furniture, props or mime, no costume changes, and no use of light and sound enhancements (though our miniscule tad was both effective and welcome.)

What we concentrate upon is the relationship of a young couple, beset by the pressures and preoccupations of present-day life, going round, both figuratively and literally, in agonised circles.

Full praise to Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn, whose (unnamed) characters draw us in and keep us fully engaged throughout.

The dilemmas they face surely resonate with younger audience members (the majority tonight), leaving older ones eternally grateful that things were much simpler, in many ways, in their day, when more happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow attitudes meant babies, like careers and marriages, were often parts of life that just happened along and were got on with.

Today, of course, each must be meticulously planned. But is it possible for a couple to make any right choice nowadays?

After all, their choice affects not just themselves, but the entire planet. ‘I could fly to New York and back every day for seven years and still not leave a carbon footprint as big as if I have a child. Ten thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower.’

The weight of the world is on their shoulders, while the real bane of their life is over-thinking. Ironically, rather than resulting in good choices, over-thinking makes their lives a miserable mess, with endless streams of unreal expectations and anxious ‘what ifs’ condemning them to a doomed, lifelong quest for non-existent perfection and impossible solutions.

As in the TV Licence ad in which a couple meet, flirt, fall in love, quarrel and separate all in the space of thirty seconds, this ninety minute play runs without interval and with no hint of a gap between scenes and events.

Breathe easy, though - humour constantly tempers the depressing flow of doom-laden thoughts in this moving, thought-provoking play. Our two young people are, after all, avocado-importing Ikea customers!

* Eileen Caiger Gray

SEASON’S GREETINGS

Sheffield Lyceum

PRODUCED by Bill Kenwright and written by Alan Ayckbourn, Season’s Greetings is one of two plays set at Christmas, the other being Absurd Person Singular.

Ayckbourn plays attract famous television actors - this cast of nine includes Glynis Barber of Dempsey and Makepeace as glamorous homemaking hostess Belinda, veteran star of All Creatures Great and Small Christopher Timothy as brother in law Bernard and Denis Lill, most famous as Alan in Only Fools and Horses, as a television watching retired security guard Harvey.

Eastenders actor Ricky Groves plays quiet husband Clive, unconcerned about his pregnant wife Pattie.

Opening on Christmas Eve with the arrival of mysterious novelist Clive, (Emmerdale’s Matthew Bose), to complete the gathering of family and friends, the scene is set.

Things don’t go well for all concerned - Bernard’s traditional family puppet theatre receives an ice cold response, Christmas Eve is ruined by an over indulgence of red wine and the remote control Christmas lights set off loud disco music and change the television channels, much to Harvey’s annoyance.

The most comedic moment is when Belinda attempts to seduce Clive under the Christmas tree, draped over assorted wrapped Christmas gifts. As they knock one parcel over bashing Duracell pink fluffy bunny tumbles out, alerting the household to their indiscretion.

The story climaxes in the black comedy moment of Clive being mistaken by Harvey as a burglar and shot. The play received a warm response with more subtle giggles than laugh out loud moments and at two hours the pace seemed slow.

Season’s Greetings is worth seeing, but is more of a selection box than an outright Christmas cracker.

* Sarah J Robinson