Theatre Review - Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

SAM Steiner’s play starts off as a romantic comedy before becoming something darker. Conceived when he was at Warwick University, it played on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015 and has since been staged several times here and abroad before making its West End debut, directed by Josie Rourke.

Oliver (Aidan Turner) and Bernadette (Jenna Coleman) meet in a cat cemetery. She’s a lawyer, who has worked hard to get where she is, while he’s a laidback musician whose parents own a castle.

We begin to piece together their relationship through a series of disjointed scenes. At one moment they are declaring their love, then they are arguing. In one scene Aidan is inexplicably trying to communicate using morse code, in another they both shout a number before speaking.

Gradually we learn that a government decree, nicknamed the “hush law”, has been passed. It limits the amount of words they can speak to 140 a day. There’s no real explanation for this draconian measure – we just have to accept it and witness what it does to their relationship.

In the lead up, Oliver attends numerous protests, often with his former girlfriend. Bernadette is more blasé about the impending law. When it is voted in, Oliver continues to lobby for it to be repealed.

Lemons… becomes considerably more menacing at this point. Suddenly we realise that free expression has been curtailed and they are being controlled by an authoritarian state. The numbers they shout are the words they have saved to share after work.

How can they make any meaningful decisions, like whether to have a baby, when they can’t discuss it at length? An up side is that any argument will end when one of them runs out of words.

Robert Jones’ cluttered back wall, beautifully lit by Aideen Malone, provides a neat contrast to the scarcity of words. Steiner’s debut is flawed, but gloriously ambitious. It’s no surprise to learn his star is already in the ascendent.

Until March 18

Originally published by Westminster Extra