Category Archive: Lungs
On Sunday 24th March BBC Radio 3 broadcast our Sheffield Theatres co-production of LUNGS.
We’re awaiting estimated listening figures which we’ll be sure to let you know about in due course, but in the meantime here’s what twitter had to say about the studio-recorded stage transfer:
Ahead of Sunday night’s BBC Radio 3 broadcast of LUNGS, Duncan Macmillan offers an insight in to the process of adapting the play from stage to radio:
In George Orwell’s ‘1984’, Winston Smith is tortured in Room 101, a place that contains everyone’s worst nightmare. Some people believe it was based on the Committee Room at BBC Broadcasting House where Orwell had worked during the Second World War. I’m currently adapting 1984 for Headlong, and was in the middle of the Room 101 scene when I was invited to come in for a meeting at Broadcasting House.
Unlike Winston, I wasn’t tortured with rats. But I was asked to cut down the swearing in my play ‘Lungs’ which the BBC were about to record for radio broadcast.
“In terms of language, s****, p***, c*** and w***** don’t ring too many alarms. I’m more concerned about words like f***, m*********** and c***.”
I’ve not heard as much swearing in my life as during this meeting about swearing. It was revealed that the f-bomb appears in my play seventy-eight times. I knew this already, oddly, as the play had been reviewed by a theatre-blogging Reverend in Winnipeg who had counted them.
I’d been through this before with the first production in Washington DC where, during rehearsal, I’d managed to cut thirty-two f***s. It’s a generalisation but Americans tend to use the word for emphasis whereas Brits use it for punctuation. There’s no word quite like ‘f***’, no word that has the same function. The characters in Lungs are stressed, they’re thinking out loud, they’re scared and angry and excited. To me, every f*** was justified.
But words have a different power on the radio. When you haven’t got the actor’s body language or facial gestures to help contextualise them, swear words can feel much more abrasive and unnecessary, particularly at the start of a play when the listener hasn’t had a chance to get to know the characters. To my surprise, not only were they not about to strap rats to my face, it became clear that there was no pressure from the BBC to cut the swearing at all. Yes, certain things in language and content require various processes but their priority was always to preserve the integrity of the script and if all the language and content is justifiable, then there’s no problem. The quality of attention from the audience is different on radio than in the theatre. It’s in people’s homes, in their kitchens, living rooms, cars and earphones.
In this new context I found that much of the swearing could be extracted. It took a lot of work but I managed to more than half the f*** count and there aren’t any in the first twenty minutes or so. I sent the revised script to Toby Swift, our producer. He thanked me, then asked if I’d mind restoring some of the eliminated f***s.
On stage Lungs is performed without sets, props, costume changes, lighting changes or sound effects, just two actors. On radio, the listener is already making the sort of imaginative leaps the play asks of the audience in a theatre. So we decided to include a lot of sound in the radio production that wasn’t in the stage version. I broke the script down into fifty-eight scenes and we recorded them separately, with a different acoustic and background sound for each one. We reunited Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn from Paines Plough/Sheffield Theatres’ production, Richard Wilson redirected them and Toby did a fantastic job with the production. It was great to get the team back together again, Alistair now a father and Kate taking a few days off from her astonishing performance in Port at the National. They managed to recreate what they did on stage but also bring something brand new to it.
Listening to it in the edit, after all the work cutting the swear words and debating the right form, I think it sounds great. Thank f*** for that.
This Sunday we open our next production of Programme 2013 and it is visiting every living room, bedroom, train, pavement, hotel, gym, laptop, iPad, wireless and car in the UK.
In fact, anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection (2.4 billion people, or 34.3% of the global population, at the last count) can experience the show.
And it’s on for one night only.
Thanks to BBC Radio 3, our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS will be broadcast at 20:30 GMT on Sunday 24th March on 90 – 93 FM, online via the BBC Radio 3 website, on the iPlayer Radio App and on DAB digital radio.
As part of their growing collection of stage transfers, BBC Radio 3 recorded Richard Wilson’s production of the play with the original cast Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn only a few weeks ago. Thanks to some nifty editing by Richard and Producer Toby Swift, the production is now ready for airing and joins an illustrious canon of stage plays given radio airplay.
So far the production has played in our Roundabout auditorium in both Sheffield and London where a combined total of 2,703 people have seen it. The stage production will soon embark on a national tour as part of our ongoing plans for Roundabout. But in the meantime the studio recording will be available to listen to – for free – on Sunday night and thereafter on iPlayer catch up.
Enjoy the show, planet earth.
On Sunday 24th March at 20:30 GMT our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS will transfer to BBC Radio 3.
The station will broadcast a studio recording of Richard Wilson’s production, starring original cast Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn, first seen at Sheffield Theatres in our Roundabout Auditorium in 2011.
Last autumn LUNGS played alongside ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner in the prototype Roundabout Auditorium which we popped up in Shoreditch Town Hall.
Critics raved and audiences swooned at Duncan’s heart-breaking story, Richard’s delicate production and Alistair and Kate’s virtuosic performances.
“Subtle, intelligent environment drama that quietly socks you in the guts.” ★★★★ Time Out
“The most beautiful, quietly shattering play of the year.” ★★★★★ The Sunday Express
Last Sunday, LUNGS won the Offie Award for Best New Play after being shortlisted in the same category at last year’s Theatre Awards UK.
Now, thanks to BBC Radio 3, we’re bringing this breath-taking play direct to your living room.
Make a date now for the broadcast or set a reminder to listen again on catch-up.
Listen live here.
Our fab four actors Maia Alexander, Alistair Cope, Kate O’Flynn and Andrew Sheridan make the Best Ensemble shortlist alongside the companies of the Faction season at New Diorama Theatre (featuring WASTED and LONDON star Cary Crankson) and Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lyric Hammersmith.
The Offies were launched in 2010 to recognise and celebrate the excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent theatres across London. The winners will be announced on Sunday 24th February at The Off West End Theatre Awards Ceremony hosted by Simon Callow.
Congrats to Duncan, Maia, Alistair, Kate and Andy on their well deserved nominations, and to all the other nominees.
Much of the most interesting theatre criticism, and the most informative for us, is found away from the mainstream press on the burgeoning theatre blogs.
Out there on the interweb, numerous passionate punters chart their extensive theatregoing with wide-ranging reviews of their whole experience – from the lighting desing to the loos – generally in much more detail than the critics can squeeze into their word counts.
And having opened our own theatre for The Roundabout Season, it was amongst the blogs that we learnt the most about audience experience. We can get so close to our own work, and in this case to our auditorium, that it proves invaluable to read other people’s first impressions.
“The ‘flat-pack’ auditorium is erected in the middle of the hauntingly preserved assembly hall, and the combination of carousel-esque wallpaper and design, exposed bulbs and the imposing lighting rig gives the distinct impression of entering a circus,” writes Rebecca Hazel Roughan in The Oxford Student Online. “The actors serve as clowns, lions and ringmasters and have the ability to heal and break our hearts in a moment.”
Gareth James on Gareth’s Culture and Travel blog writes: “It’s a bigger version of the Royal Court’s set for Cock, like somewhere you’d have held a cock-fight. It reminds me of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre – like a spaceship has landed inside an old building.”
There was a lot of chat about buttons…
“It’s unallocated seating,” explains Rev Stan, “But you choose a coloured button before you go in and are directed to a portion of the auditorium that matches your colour. (Tip: Choose yellow if you want to be closest to the exit/loos). A nifty way of getting the audience to spread out but as no one was collecting buttons I’m wondering how long it will be before they run out.”
Don’t worry Rev, we had loads.
“Not content with merely allocating seats, your button is the key to your position – it’s all very alternative. This is Shoreditch after all,” notes Oxford Student Rebecca, dispatched from the dreaming spires to EC1.
“Judging by the spread of audience members, given that choice of colours, most people will go for blue, and pink is very unpopular,” observes Nick on Partially Obstructed View, before revealing we’d scared his friend: “Vanessa, it turns out, is afraid of buttons (‘What the hell is that?’ she thundered at the three bowls of different-coloured buttons on the box office desk.)”
And if it wasn’t the buttons causing consternation, it was the sex:
“Positively the most sexual scene I’ve ever seen on a theater,” writes Webcowgirl on Life In The Cheap Seats of the virginal fumble in ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. “I’m sure the actors both had their underpants on but it was rather a LOT like watching a live sex show and if you were planning on taking a member of the family I would NOT advise it.”
So don’t bring your Granny, is the tip, though she does go on to say: “Otherwise: actually really hot,” so perhaps liberal minded family members might get a kick out of it.
There were thousands of words written about the plays. Insightful, interesting and unashamedly subjective descriptions of people’s responses to the plays, which is exactly what we want to hear.
“My favourite piece of the day, especially the second act,” writes ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG fan Poly Gianniba on The Other Bridge Project. “Payne’s writing probes difficult places of loneliness and heartbreak, and the actors, especially Andrew Sheridan (who has the rare ability of drawing you in so effectively and with so little fanfare that takes you by surprise) make the play justice.”
Thanks so much to everyone who came, and saw, and blogged. We’ve loved reading your reviews, and we’ve learnt from hearing about your experiences.
We’ll leave the last word to Webcowgirl, writing about LUNGS:
“And at the end, it seemed, the world blew out of the auditorium, the light from the stage expanding out the cupola above me, all of the little sadnesses and disappointments that make up our tiny lives becoming universal, utterly transcending the theater in which we sat on a rainy Sunday night in October in a run down corner of an often unfriendly town. And I walked out into the night and thought about my own sadnesses, and fiddled with my little yellow button. And it was good.”
We were proudly supporting Duncan Macmillan whose play LUNGS – part of our Roundabout Season – was nominated in The Best New Play category.
The TMA does a fantastic job of celebrating the truly national reach of British Theatre. Nominees in its annual awards ranged from The Lyric Belfast to The Theatre Chipping Norton, via touring companies like Graeae and ETT, and celebrating the invaluable contribution of backstage, box office, marketing and management staff who make our theatres tick, as well as the writers, actors, directors and creatives whose work we see on stage.
As TMA president Rachel Tackley rightly said: “Regional theatre is going from strength to strength, and we should recognise and celebrate that success.”
Rachel also offered a suprising statistic: “With 30 million theatre attendances a year in Britain, theatre-going easily outstrips football attendances.”
So much for theatre being a minority sport.
We loved hearing Sam West speak so passionately about his parents Timothy West and Prunella Scales who were honoured with The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre for their lifetime devotion to touring far and wide. And we loved celebrating the extraordinary energy and innovation of a nationwide industry bloodied but unbowed by funding cuts.
We also loved the salmon mousse, rack of lamb and chocolate soufle. Obvs.
The Best New Play award was won by Sarah Ruhl for her play IN THE NEXT ROOM, produced at The Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath. So congratulations to her, and congratulations to all the winners and nominees (but especially Duncan, we’re unashamedly biased…)
And congratulations to British Theatre collectively, in all its diversity and variety and brilliance. You beat football.
The Roundabout Season came to an end this Saturday with a brilliant three show day and a lovely night of celebrations, and joining the cast and company at drinks afterwards were many of the amazing volunteer ushers who’s dedication and enthusiasm has embodied the spirit of the Roundabout Season.
How are you finding the Roundabout experience? I’m loving it – it’s great to be in a buzzing, creative building again after working in a commercial, business environment for a while.
What’s your favourite part of the Roundabout Auditorium? It is a very intimate space yet can fit a surprising amount of people, and there isn’t a ‘bad’ seat in the house!
Which plays have you seen so far? I’ve been lucky enough to catch all three, more than once in some cases!
Which one would you recommend and why? Lungs – the way Duncan Macmillan has written the dialogue feels revolutionary even though it’s really just an accurate representation of the cadences of everyday speech.
Give us your 140 character review of the play: Breath of fresh air in exploration of contemporary relationships. Characters have believable shades of grey & are beautifully performed by talented cast of two.
Following on from Friday’s blog we asked another of our amazing volunteer ushers to share their experiences of the Roundabout Season and give their personal recommendations of which shows to see in the final week …
Name: Jon Barton
How are you finding the Roundabout experience?
I’m having a really great time. I’m a writer myself so its a useful learning experience for me.
What’s your favourite part of the Roundabout Auditorium?
That it’s in the round. It completely changes the dynamic of the productions and really does justice to the writing. Also we don’t have enough in the round theatres in the UK and it’s a breath of fresh air.
Which plays have you seen so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to see all of them.
Which one would you recommend and why?
Give us your 140 character review of the play…
Nick Payne has written a compelling love story that lends itself to the intimacy (and theatricality) of the Roundabout space. In a story that spans six decades we meet Leonard and Violet – wartime lovers looking to enjoy their last night together. Leaping forward to the sixties we see the extent of their estrangement, until events draw them together once more in 2002. Clare Lizzimore’s production excels in its execution, mining the writing for every bit of tenderness and inelegance. Exposing set and costume serve a timeless quality to the story and remind us of the advancing years. What stays with you is the quiet power of the triptych and its ability to quietly break your heart.