Words don’t do justice to Sam Steiner’s Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Set in an almost dystopian future; combining a deeply political play with a love story is not an easy feat, but Steiner captures the complexity perfectly. Lemons explores a world where a 140-word limit, the ‘Hush Law’ has been enforced and demonstrates the effects it has on a couple, Bernadette (Jemima Murphy) and Oliver (Charlie Suff). The play jumps around in time, made up of very short, fast-paced scenes, but it is easy to follow. It is set over a potential time span of years, flitting back and forth between pre-word limit and present day and shows the deterioration of love and trust between Bernadette and Oliver.
Although the play’s first performance was back in 2015, it is more relevant than ever. Testing the limits of freedom of speech, the Hush Law creates cracks in social class and introduces discussions that could be real life scenarios. It is scary to realise how identifiable it is to disagree with close friends and family over the future of the country.
Hamish Clayton’s direction opens new ways to define the importance of communication. Bernadette and Oliver are forced into finding alternate methods to speak to each other; Morse code, warped language, physical touch and eye contact, to name a few - which is heart-breaking and tense to watch at times. Clayton explored subtle ways to represent the importance of words and values to show how significantly their lives had changed from something so simple.
The basement theatre is small but the space was used effectively, the set being only a shelving unit with several props, two chairs and two lights. The lights switched to red when one of the characters had used their word limit, this was harrowing at times (mid argument, for example) and exceptionally powerful.
Murphy and Suff have impeccable onstage chemistry. Their ability to portray love, frustration and even aggression towards each other was compelling and raw. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, Lemons makes you ponder about how you would react in these situations, what your priorities would be and how far you would go for someone.
I cannot recommend seeing this play highly enough, it is thought provoking and completely unique. Steiner has hit perfection with this play and leaves you feeling a mix of sadness, fear and hope. Truly fascinating.
Review by Hannah Storey
Seat: Unallocated | Price of Ticket: £15