Founded in Barnsley in 2012, Lung Theatre company’s working methods are very specific, and they shine a light upon areas of society which theatre audiences might only know from news headlines. Working with the communities affected by significant social and political events, they use their own verbatim words to bring as unmediated a story as possible to the stage.
Past shows – most of them Fringe hits – have focused on the Bradford City stadium fire, forced evictions, young carers and a study of tabloid headlines about ‘extremism’ in Birmingham schools. Now they’ve teamed with the Woodhill Families Group to look at the high rate of suicide at HM Prison Woodhill in Milton Keynes.
The narrative takes in the harrowing experiences related to their families by the young brother, step-brother and son featured in the piece, and their families’ attempts to find answers and justice afterwards. The staging itself is striking, with those verbatim words delivered in pre-recorded voiceover, while three bereaved characters (played by Tyler Brazao, Miah Robinson and Marina Climent) and one ghostly figure (Chris Otim) enact their emotions through expressive physical movements which border on dance.
Around them, Lulu Tam’s set of cardboard boxes on warehouse shelves – bathed in Will Monks’ murky lighting – are representative of the humans the play is about, warehoused together regardless of mental health or addiction issues. Matt Woodhead’s text is repetitive in places, as verbatim theatre often is, but the emotional impact of the piece is still high.