Written by recent graduate Sam Steiner, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons traces the relationship of Bernadette and Oliver as they navigate the Orwellian prospect of having their speech taken from them. The endearing pair struggle when faced with a vote ordering the universal restriction of speech to 140 words per day. For Bernadette and Oliver, who are a few years down the line of their relationship and already starting to feel the strain of long-held tensions, this becomes the ultimate test.
Played by the mesmerising Beth Holmes, Bernadette, a fully-fledged family lawyer from a working-class background, grapples with both her belief in the justice system and democracy, as well as her awareness that those like her struggling parents will be most affected by the law. Meanwhile, Oliver, played charmingly by Euan Kitson, could not have his mind more made up. As Oliver becomes increasingly invested in the protests against the law, Bernadette finds herself sympathetic to the cause but unwilling to involve herself. Tensions rise further when Bernadette finds herself unable to save words for Oliver in such a high-pressure job.
Holmes’ ability to quickly adapt from one emotion to another offers an authentic picture of a long-term relationship told in a short space of time (in the 60 minutes the show runs for) while Kitson’s portrayal of a clueless man in love is something the whole audience could relate to. Moreover, the pair gets laughs and engages our sympathy with breathless ease.
Particularly well suited to the Roundabout venue – a small circus-style venue where the audience are seated around the whole stage – the effect is incredibly intimate. Holmes and Kitson remain aware of their physical positioning at all times, utilising the circular stage with a steep tier to show themselves lying down as if in bed, sat at ease, or standing and staring out away from each other. We feel their closeness as much as we feel their detachment from one another, making the situation they are in seem much more plausible, and all the more chilling for it. If such normal, down-to-earth people can find themselves in a position where such a huge part of their human rights is taken away from them, what is there to stop it from happening to us?
In a time where the menage-a-troise of Trump-era America, Brexit Britain and the increasing international threat to female reproductive rights, Lemons is a powerful tribute to the basic human rights that up until very recently we have taken for granted. Though not directly related to any of these issues in particular, the play summons the same feelings of unease and anxiety.
That is not to say, though, that the play does not offer comic relief. In their semi-serious attempts at Morse code, their determination to abbreviate common phrases into individual words, and a spontaneous homage to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you will find yourselves rooting for Bernadette and Oliver. Love is messy – messier still when arguments end when one individual runs out of words. But there is still hope. Hope in the form of ‘octopus; buffalo; yellow; lemons. Lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons…’
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
Roundabout @ Summerhall (venue 26)
Until 20th August
Tickets are now sold out. Summerhall may be able to release a small number of tickets on the day.
Photo credit: Walrus Theatre