hould we have a baby? This is a question many couples must think very seriously about. And in this time of environmental anxiety this issue has become even more complex. We’ve seen An Inconvenient Truth and we’ve read This Changes Everything, most of us are able to acknowledge our role in climate change. But the fact that all man-made environmental problems ultimately point to our increasing population – that having a child, with the 10,000 tonnes of CO2 it entails, is one of the worst things a human being can do to the environment, seems to be one of the last great cultural taboos.
10,000 tonnes of CO2; "That's the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I'd be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower," grumbles the unnamed female lead in Duncan Macmillan’s play Lungs, which I went to see performed in an intimate pop-up dome at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre. The performance plunged us into the action mid-conversation; a couple asking each other tough questions about their future, their worth as people and their place in the world (in IKEA.)
While the play is funny at times, the core topics explored so skilfully by the two actors communicate the worries of a generation who have been burdened with a very uncertain future. The characters reflect upon their own thirty-something, Yuppie inclinations as “car driving, plastic bag using, aerosol spraying, avocado importing Western[ers]”. They attempt to validate their worth, they seek to convince themselves they are “good people”. While the characters are imperfect and at times neurotic, their fears speak so fundamentally to the angst inside us that we find we can’t help but identify with them.
The understated staging of the show – subtle lighting cues shone on the two lone actors without so much as a prop – gives the show a profoundly intimate feel that would not have been successful without its strong performances. While the piece is fundamentally Brechtian in its presentation, the rawness of the dialogue and the authentic performances lend it to a credibility that invites the audience to look past its formal techniques. The way they control the space, coupled with the relentless pace of the dialogue draws the audience into the characters’ minds. The script creates a sense of time passage using sudden spoken prompts, allowing hours, days and years to pass instantly, sometimes to great emotional effect.
Lungs is a play that captures the concerns of a generation and presents it as a candid, hard-hitting conversation between two lovers.