Lungs by Duncan Macmillan

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Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 24 March 2013
First produced by Paines Plough and Sheffield Theatres in 2011, Lungs had a straightforward plot focusing on the agonies experienced by a couple (Kate O'Flynn, Alistair Cope) considering whether they should bring a baby into the world.
Within that framework, however, dramatist Duncan Macmillan creates a complex piece of shifting moods, in which listeners are continually encouraged to look behind the words to discover the characters' true feelings.  On several occasions the dialogue becomes a means of obfuscation: the ordinary banalities of daily conversation offer some form of protection for a couple either unwilling or unable to confront their emotional difficulties.  Sometimes it's difficult to contemplate the truth about oneself and one's relationship to others.
In structural terms, Lungs resembles a stream-of-consciousness piece, with its rapid temporal and conversational switches.  Sometimes this is used as a form of protection; such switches help the characters to avoid contemplating the realities of their existence.  On other occasions, however, Macmillan uses this technique to suggest the randomness of the world; it's difficult to find anything to hold onto.  The characters can only find stability in their relationship, which helps to explain why they end up staying together, despite numerous temporary break-ups.
Richard Wilsom's production - restaged for radio by Toby Swift - was both comic yet profound.  It seemed especially suited to the medium of radio, as it forced listeners to concentrate on the characters' various moods.  Congratulations to the two actors (O'Flynn and Cope), who revealed an astonishing vocal virtuosity.