The great thing about watching culture on screen is that, unlike a theatre, town hall or field at Worthy Farm, there is no physical limit to the number of people who can join. Until now that is, as London’s Old Vic has cooked up an ingenious way of bringing in virtual revenues whilst the actual doors remain firmly closed. This is Lungs, which is a very rare thing: a sold-out TV show.
It makes complete sense for The Old Vic to launch a series of live performances via Zoom in an attempt to replicate the ‘here and now’ we get from being in the theatre. The unique bit is that they are only releasing 1,000 tickets for each performance and thus creating a buzz and ratcheting demand for the show. Also, kicking-off this approach with Lungs is a smart move as it has two highly bankable stars in The Crown’s Claire Foy and Matt Smith.
Reviewing for The New York Times Ben Brantley says that this stage play, as re-created by director Matthew Warchus, and his “accomplished technical team… turns out to be a natural for the Zoom format and the restrictions of the pandemic age.” In The Guardian Chris Wiegand feels that 12 weeks after UK theatres were closed by Covid-19, “it is both poignant and uplifting to watch actors walk back on stage.” And that “Foy and Smith are superb as the couple whose comfortable ease disguises an empathy shortfall.” The Times’s Clive Davis laments that “It’s never going to be quite the same as seeing the actors go head to head in the flesh, but these are at least live performances.” And, that the production makes, “clever use of split screens: we were watching a relationship which veered from profound intimacy to mutual incomprehension in seconds. Even if the play’s final scenes make an abrupt and implausible leap into a bleak, dystopian future, Foy and Smith form a compelling partnership.”
There are no stalls or gods in this theatre, all the audience members get the same view, and they are asked to pay what they can afford from £20 to £65. The show is streaming until 4th July, but they are all sold out! Maybe they’ll put on some more shows – it’s what we used to call “repeats”.
Shown on specific dates in June and on July 1st – 4th 2020. See availability here.