LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS is an intelligent and thoughtful play from the pen of Sam Steiner. It’s a play about a time when – God forbid – people are only permitted to utter a maximum 140 words a day although we never quite find out what horrible punishment they will face from the Government for breaching the limit.
On a positive note, it shows that communication skills can adapt to such an eerie world through the employment of short-hand language, eye conversation and the use of a form of Morse code. As a result, it is all rather clever and interesting, enhanced by two supreme performances from Jemima Murphy (Bernadette) and Charlie Suff (Oliver), great direction from Hamish Clayton, and some super music (a bit of Madness is even thrown in for good measure).
Murphy and Suff have a real chemistry on stage as they strut, circle each other, jump in and out of bed with great regularity, argue like crazy and then tell each other how much they love each other. It is fascinating – even thrilling – to watch them adapt to the new world of limited words. How will they use their remaining allocation?
Murphy’s Bernadette is an up and coming lawyer who has done well for herself. Oliver is a musician who is set against the new edict from the Government about the limit on words and joins noisy protests against it. Despite her career success, Bernadette seems insecure, not helped by the fact that Oliver has a former girlfriend (Julie) hanging around in the background. Jealousy lingers in the atmosphere like a storm cloud ready to dump its rain at any time. There is a great moment when just before the 140-word edict comes into practice the two of them go through a process of exorcism – starkly stating what they really think of each other. Talk about the purging of the souls.
The play is a jigsaw as it surges back and forth in time like a pendulum. It takes a while for certain pieces to come together such as why they fire a number at each other before speaking. But when the penny drops, there is a real suspense and excitement in anticipating what words they will use before a red light indicates their allocation is up. The word Lemons five times over? Maybe.
Absurd? Not really, given our willingness to communicate verbally is already threatened by social media, twitter (280 characters maximum although it was once 140) and the use of texts over chatter.
The play has almost as many scenes as the 80 minutes it runs for, but this enhances rather than distracts happenings on stage – and perpetuates the staccato world the pair are part of. All the props – the duvet they dive under, the food they consume – are taken from a bookcase and then swiftly returned.
It is challenging theatre with a political undertone bubbling away under the surface like an agitated volcano – for example, demonstrations against authoritarian regimes and how a word-limited world would repress the working classes even more. All eminently watchable – and hence impossible to review in 140 words (I’ve used more than 500).
Juicy lemon fare.
Photos by Maximilian Clarke