To have or not to have intimate negotiations.

Bringing a child into this world requires a lot of thought, especially in a time of global anxiety and political unrest. These are some of the issues explored in Lungs, a play written by British playwright Duncan Macmillan. It will be staged by new local theatre outfit EJA at creative space Sparky Dawg in Petaling Jaya, Selangor starting Nov 13.

Lungs was invited to perform at the recent George Town Festival in Penang. It initially had a preview show before the festival.

“We staged it in February as a preview, to test the waters because we weren’t sure of the response,” says Alexis Wong, who is making her directorial debut. “It was great and we received a lot of positive feedback. The plot is written in a conversational manner and is very 21st century. I rarely read a play in one setting but with Lungs, I couldn’t put it down.”

“The frustration and desperation of both characters make me very angry but also sympathetic towards them. I felt I was knocked down by a bus because of all the raw emotions involved,” she adds.

London-based Macmillan’s distinctive, off-kilter love story gives voice to a generation for whom uncertainty is a way of life through two flawed, but deeply human, people who you don’t always like but start to feel you might love. It’s bravely written and startlingly structured.

Macmillan wrote the play when he was approaching 30, and unexpectedly facing the fact that he was becoming a grown-up in an overwhelmingly complicated time.

For the Malaysian version, Lungs features actors Erin Marie and Jeremy Ooi, who also double up as producers. Incidentally, last year, the duo were given 10 pages of the script as an acting homework by Alex Chua, previously from Electric Minds Project, who now runs theatrethreesixty.

“It’s so truthful and strikes a chord. The couple is not proclaiming their love for each other and they never pretend. That’s the staying power of the play,” says Chua.

Just like how you contemplate marriage, approaching middle age makes you mull over life, death, and your own legacy. What exactly are the right reasons to have a child? And what will be the first to destruct – the planet or the relationship?

“As a young couple, we journey with them on a deeper level. When people watch the play, it reflects on themselves,” says Ooi.

Erin is certain this play will strike a chord with the audience. “I think a lot of Malaysians can relate to it, not only young couples. We had an array of different audiences from different age groups. Of course, we forget the lines sometimes and make small mistakes so we pray hard before the show!” says Erin. 

The set is kept minimal, with a bare stage, and no props. “I wanted to test out if a stripped down minimalist theatre would appeal to the audience and it did. We have not modified the script in any way and yes, it does move very fast as the scenes are written that way. The pacing only changes in the second half,” says Wong.

The play’s furious pace and fast dialogue lives up to its title, leaving audience feeling the need to pause for breath in a world that does not allow it. “It’s real life! At the end of the day, you will go home feeling something but you won’t be depressed. It’s beautiful yet, heartbreaking,” concludes Wong.

> Lungs runs from Nov 13–16, Nov 20–23 and Nov 27–29 at Sparky Dawg, Unit 108 Ground Floor Block G, Jalan 16/11, Phileo Damansara 1, PJ. Showtimes are 3pm on Nov 16, 23 & 29, 8:30pm otherwise. Tickets are RM25 (3pm) and RM30 (8:30pm). For reservations, email lungs.booking@gmail.com.