Kickshaw Theatre presents Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs

. February 1, 2020.
Claire Joliffe, a charismatic rising actor and comedian, is one part of the two-character cast in the love story “Lungs.” Photo credit: Kim Hardy.

Propelling their new season into uncharted waters

For many couples, the mere prospect of parenthood is daunting enough without the weight of the world bearing down on our backs. Yet as we take our first tentative steps into 2020, Australia is in flames, the U.K. is split down the middle by Brexit, and the sound of war drums beating in Iran seems to shake the very earth we stand on. Who, then, in their right mind could possibly possess the hubris to thrust new life onto this whirling ball of confusion?

This is the central question at the heart of playwright Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, a tale of a young couple who may share the love needed to nurture new life, but aren’t yet convinced that conception— no matter how well-intended— is the key to solving all of our problems.

The play, a funny, sexy, and cerebral meditation on the current state of humanity, comes to trustArt Studios, courtesy of the Kickshaw Theatre. It’s urgency and originality earned Lungs the Best New Play trophy at the 2013 Off-West End Awards.  Kickshaw Theatre Artistic Director Lynn Lamers couldn’t be more excited about the talent involved in bringing it to a town whose population and diversity give those themes resonance.

A new thing

Lamers’ decision to select Lungs was a simple one: “It’s a love story. A romantic love story and we (Kickshaw) haven’t done that before.” Perhaps a touch too quaint for the nomadic troupe known for bucking tradition.

“The characters are kind-of streaming through time and place,” Lamers cites in discussing the production’s minimalist set design and the unique structuring that convinced her it was a perfect fit for Kickshaw.

A cast of two

A cast and production team have been assembled, and with rehearsals set to commence in early February, Lamers is certain she has gathered the talent to do Macmillan’s words justice. Considering the deeply intimate nature of Lungs, as well as the play’s small cast (two characters) and set style (there is none), the responsibility falls on the two actors who lead this emotional journey.

Claire Joliffe and Nick Yocum star as W and M, respectively. Their tender hearts pounding with passion as the terror-fueled nightmare of the 21st Century grinds at their youthful optimism, W and M leave no philosophical stone unturned. For the audience to follow the flawed, yet lovable, couple on that trek, the chemistry between the two leads must be palpable.
With Joliffe and Yocum, Lamers knows that it is.

The buzz around Joliffe’s reputation as a charismatic rising actor and comedian preceded her. A Detroit native and graduate of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Joliffe is comfortable performing drama on stage or stand-up comedy. Lamers hadn’t seen Joliffe in action, but that first look was all it took: “She took my breath away! She’s truly an exceptional actor,” exclaims Lamers.

Add Nick Yocum as “M”— the second half of the cast— and the stage disappears. Each member of the audience becomes a witness to an invisible struggle where life is at stake. Yocum is a familiar face to theatre fans thanks to his work with Tipping Point Theatre, Theatre Nova, and Performance Network. His distinct brand of humor melds with Joliffe’s in a way that makes the viewer feel as though these characters could be someone they know.

One of three full productions comprising the professional pop-up theatre’s 2019-2020 season, “Lungs,” directed by Paige Conway, begins it’s 12-show run at trustArt Studios on Thursday, February 27th. For times and tickets visit


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