More erratic and self-indulgent than Nick Payne's 'One Day When We Were Young', Duncan Macmillan's 'Lungs' nonetheless pips Payne's more polished play to be my highlight of new writing company Paines Plough's Shoreditch Town Hall rep season.
Essentially it's an extended, rambling and for a long time extremely funny riff on that most modern middle class anxiety: whether or not it is 'right' to bring a child into our polluted, over-populated world. After a man (Alistair Cope) chooses the advent of a trip to Ikea to broach the idea of making a baby to his girlfriend (Kate O'Flynn), Macmillan dives into a joyously absurd hour of verbal fireworks, as the two bat every conceivable pro and con of furthering the species back and forth with dizzying speed, eventually concluding that they're good people ('We support the smaller coffee shops against the larger chains! We watch documentaries!') so it's okay.
While Cope is the straight(ish) man, O'Flynn is gifted a treasure trove of incandescently neurotic monologues and one-liners ('I don't want to bring my child into this world full of crack dealers and pimps and homeless') that she rips into with passive aggressive relish.
After a while Richard Wilson's hyper-accelerated production begins to feel like it's grandstanding a bit. But at the hour mark Macmillan suddenly pulls the rug from under our feet for an ambivalent, intelligent final third that has the balls and the brains to actually explore the original premise seriously.
'Lungs' doesn't preach, but beneath all the madcap antics lies a subtle, intelligent environmental drama that quietly socks you in the guts.