MTC’s latest play, Lungs, is Duncan MacMillan’s smart and funny drama examining parenthood – a conversation about starting a family is folded into concerns about the state of the planet, interlacing the personal and the global. Multi awards winning British writer, MacMillan, is known for tackling issues of social concern – for shocking audiences into a crisis of conscious if you will.
For actor Kate Atkinson, MacMillan makes strong statements about social responsibility, particularly inter-generational responsibility to the environment, the nature of romantic relationships in the 21st century including the decision to have children and the ways these things relate to each other.
The play follows a couple through the surprising lifecycle of their relationship, as they grapple with questions of family and change, hope, betrayal, happenstance, and the terrible pain that you can only cause the people you love.
His characters are universal representatives simply referred to as M and W. Their discussion, oft passionate but also humorous, poses the question about whether they should be adding to the 7 billion people or so already in the world.
“I don’t think everyone in contemporary society experiences the same dilemma about having a child as M and W do – but this question provides a launching pad for a multitude of others about what it means to be ‘a good person’ in today’s world, ” Atkinson explains. ” I think many people in the Western world grapple with the idea of ethical behaviour and the effect of their first world lives on the rest of the planet – the problem is that very few of us are prepared to make significant changes – we talked a lot about the ideas of ‘inevitable hypocrisy’ or ‘unavoidable inconsistency’ when we looked at M and W’s lives. ”
Atkinson plays W opposite Bert LaBonte’s M – the relationship is messy – at least during the events of this play. Atkinson explains: “They are polar opposites in many ways but a well-oiled machine in others and, most importantly, they enjoy each other – the arguments they have are all part of the fun. While, at a dramatic level, many of the situations they face are heightened, the relationship also feels very real and intimate.”
Atkinson admires W’s honesty stating that her tendency to say everything that’s on her mind to her partner is deeply infuriating but her expectation that he will love her regardless is kind of endearing. A description to a friend would be: by turns, a terminal over-thinker, neurotic, self-absorbed, unapologetically inconsistent and sometimes cruel. But she is also open, loving, intelligent, inquisitive, sensitive and often very witty.
Lungs is a very funny, theatrically original, dynamic, moving and thought-provoking piece. It is a romantic comedy that navigates some topical contemporary debates that keeps it from being formulaic and predictable. “Without giving too much away I’d also say there is a brilliant set design that adds a whole other dimension to the story; basically it does stuff that means no two performances will ever be the same!” says Atkinson.
Lungs plays till March 19