Writer Sam Steiner presents us with a world that is seemingly so similar to our own, yet with one huge difference. A Draconian-style law passes, nicknamed the ‘hush law’, that means we are limited to only speak 140 words per day. This world is presented to us through the eyes of Bernadette (Beth Holmes) and Oliver (Euan Kitson), a couple whose relationship is pushed to the limits when less really must mean more.
This ambitious play that tackles both the macro and micro problems of today’s society caused by a law of speaking less ironically leaves you with a lot to talk about. We see the struggles of a relationship that jumps back and forth in time, allowing us to watch the before and after of when the law is set. Both Kitson and Holmes’ brilliant chemistry on stage allows the audience to watch the two characters’ love blossom and then wilt under the strain of Oliver’s left-wing activism, Bernadette’s corporate job, and their disagreements over class and background. The effect of the non-linear narrative means we see how words before the law hold little meaning. The couple throw phrases such as ‘I love you’ at each other from all angles of a conversation until it no longer holds value. This forces us to question our own choice of words, and how we express ourselves. With the long, sometimes uncomfortable, silences holding far more importance than the babbling of dead cats and favourite films, this play examines the power words hold.
Lemons tackles the political side to the law too, with Oliver passionately protesting, insisting to a less convinced Bernadette that the ‘hush law’ will solidify the rich while the working class will struggle to make themselves heard. The tightly packed script presents themes of nepotism, class struggle and democracy, questioning whether our voices are ever really heard by ‘Them’ no matter how much noise we make.
The differing viewpoints of the couple pushes Oliver closer to his fellow activist ex-girlfriend and Bernadette further away. The choreography cleverly matches the couple’s connection; as the couple moves further away physically, so do they emotionally. The director, Ed Madden, uses the in-the-round space well, allowing focus to switch between the characters. This intimate space means the audience can see every small detail that forms the building blocks of Bernadette and Oliver’s relationship: their shy exchange of smiles, their teary eyes during an argument and their gasps of pleasure or pain during sex. This small, sparse space manages to capture both a whole world that we hear of but never see, and the quiet shelter of a couple’s flat.
The simplicity of both script and space, brought to life so wonderfully by Kitson and Holmes, presents us with an abundance of themes and issues that has been made so easy and entertaining to watch. Lemons has something for everyone, and is a definite must see.