Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons ★★★★ Harold Pinter Theatre | Jan 18 - Mar 18, 2023

For reasons that are never quite clear, the government decides to impose a law that limits individuals to using 140 words a day. Playwright, Sam Steiner, uses this Twitter premise to consider governmental suppression of speech and the role of communication in relationships. Over the arc of their love affair, Bernadette, played by Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman, and Oliver, portrayed by Poldark heartthrob, Aidan Turner spar about, and explore, the use of language in the personal and political spheres. She is a lawyer, insecure about her class origins and not terribly concerned about the new law, despite the fact that her business is words. In contrast, he is a musician from an upper class background who is actively engaged in protesting the new restrictions. As a musician his preferred medium of communication might be sound, but ironically he is the one distressed about the curtailment of speech. Their interaction and commentary on the new law is interesting but inconclusive, mirroring its effect on their own exchanges. Sometimes the curbing of oversharing might be a positive thing, while at others, the negative nature of inhibiting expression seems clear. Somewhat confusing is the fact that the script seems equally indecisive about the questions it raises about the limitation of communication. However, both Turner and Coleman do a fine job of creating engaging characters, despite the fact that their rather stylised romcom performances tend to keep the audience at a bit of an emotional arm's length from the complexities of the characters' interactions and their dilemma. The frequent shifting of time periods can also obscure the development of the characters and their discussion. Nevertheless, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons raises some interesting issues and the two principals manage to lure the audience into pondering the nature and importance of communication in both personal and public realms. Plus, their chemistry really works! Josie Rourke's direction ensures that the rather talky piece never bogs down, and Robert Jones' set artfully frames the discussion. Although some of the uncertain elements of the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe hit are still here, this production is a successful transition of the show to the big stage.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson.

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