Mariy Rosen stages the first Bulgarian production of “Lungs” by the contemporary British playwright Duncan Macmillian. Written in 2011, it is a funny and topical play about a couple facing the great dilemmas of modern life. The roles of W and M are played by actors Elena Telbis and Boyko Krastanov. The show, staged at the Sfumato Theatre Laboratory in Sofia, is part of the Bulgarian selection of the festival and the Showcase programme and is presented on 5 June at the Puppet Theatre – Varna. Anita Angelova talks to the director.
Duncan Macmillan’s play Lungs depicts two people trying to find their way in the face of the complex dilemmas that contemporaneity presents us with. The author places his characters in very strict constraints. They seem to represent the very messiness in which we live and lose ourselves.
My guess about the author’s restrictions have more to do with creating a concise concentrate, something like a bullet to pierce, rather what is being accumulated to sink into silence. This restriction also corresponds to the speed at which we live now. The speed of information and action. It’s a rather hectic modern age and the author speaks precisely of the pulse of time. Of our time here and now. He tries not to psychologize too much so that the speed of the bullet to strike down.
You often work with the empty space of the stage and this show is no exception. You say that you are in your own waters to some extent in it. But what was the challenge you faced in staging this performance?
The empty stage is a special interest of mine. The difficulty here was how to create a lighting structure that corresponds to the meaning. Not to literally illustrate what is being said, but to have another metaphorical force, another sign, an image through which to build an additional layer in the perception of the meanings that come from the text itself. It was not easy to fill the empty scene. The actual work in crafting this structure began long before I met the actors. I knew that this held the key to the performance. After all, this is my job as director. The rest of the work was about bringing out the most painful, truthful, and believable acting from the actors. So I did the work of filling the stage beforehand, drawing a structure, a sort of storyboard of the lighting, which helped me not to lose the flow that runs through the text. It doesn’t offer any auxiliary cues that define the time changes. It’s part of the playwright’s strategy to make everything blend into one.
The two characters of the man and the woman undergo an interesting change. What do you think it’s due to?
It seems to me that they both have a very similar sense of the pulse of what’s happening to humanity right now. It is particularly pronounced in the female character. If there’s any big change, it’s in the opinions, the choices, the desire and the decision for both of them to have or not have a child. That seems to me the big event, and the failure of that desire. Abortion changes the woman’s self-image, it also leads to a painful change in mindset. It is a traumatic choice. After reading the text, I recognized a lot of myself in it and in the characters. I very much believe in most of the sentences and understand them; I felt all the changes as something quite natural.
How did you connect with this play?
I’m close to the apocalyptic feeling, which is very strong in both characters. The feeling of being part of certain processes that are out of your control, but you painfully think them through. Even though you’re actually powerless to make big steps. That desperation that stands in front of you. I connected very strongly with the meaning of human presence. As well as with a lot of the themes they talk about. I remember how I used to say similar things myself. Also, there are some stereotypes being brought up here that can be observed from the side. Both characters have a hyper-awareness that is sometimes so painful that it puts you in a situation of not being able to live normally and being in constant anxiety. That very much resonates with me, as do a lot of other issues in the play.