Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons – UK Tour

Manchester-born Sam Steiner wrote his debut play in 2015 having graduated from Warwick University and whilst working in a fish and chip shop. It was first staged by the Walrus Theatre Company and has since been seen around the world.

Jenna Coleman in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Photo Johan Persson.
Jenna Coleman in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Photo Johan Persson.

It is a play in which “two people meet, fall in love, mature together, grow apart and battle to stay as a unit” (Josie Rourke-director). “Like any great relationship drama there is the breathless jeopardy of will they/won’t they.

However, the government has imposed a ‘hush law’ in which everyone is restricted to using no more than 140 words per day, which Steiner cleverly interweaves into the fabric of the play, as well as playing with time. This ‘non-linear’ approach means that each of the many short scenes is not played chronologically but the writing is so clear that we quickly understand this and it does not matter anyway as Bernadette’s (Jenna Coleman) and Oliver’s (Aidan Turner) story is crystal clear and very involving.

Rourke keeps the play flowing seamlessly from scene to scene as well as giving the piece great energy, making us, the audience, work, yet at the same time making that work well worthwhile. The 85 minutes speed by and we feel that we have been on the same journey as the characters in the play. Steiner’s writing allows us to find the humanity in how people and couples work through extreme situations.

Both Coleman and Turner are superb in their roles, having a magnetic chemistry in their stage relationship which is totally believable – it is as if they have known each other for years. Coleman has a very eloquent face, often being able to say as much with her eyes and facial expressions as she does in words. Her smile and laughter are infectious and we find ourselves smiling when she does – her character is very positive, even when difficulties pile on each other. Turner is obviously totally smitten with her, and we feel his pain when he is at fault and finds that he has to lie to her, which he clearly hates doing. Steiner has drawn these roles wonderfully and subtly.

Designer, Robert Jones, has created an imaginative, semi-circular room evocatively lit by Aideen Malone which gradually transforms during the latter part of the play – quite beautiful – surprisingly giving the play great stillness. I could have wished for a stronger ending though: suddenly it just stopped, leaving us dissatisfied and wanting something else – perhaps a bringing together of all the threads?

As Rourke says “There is the potential for great joy, fun, reflection and healing” in Steiner’s writing, which makes you want to see and hear more.

Highly recommended, but unfortunately this is the final week of this production’s tour, so, if you wish to see it you have little time!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

You’re going to speak more than 123 million words in your lifetime. What will you do when they run out?
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is a tender and funny rom-com about what we say, how we say it, and what happens when we can’t say anything anymore.

Starring Jenna Coleman (The Serpent, All My Sons) and Aidan Turner (Poldark, The Lieutenant of Inishmore), this bold and brilliant play from Sam Steiner (Fingernails, You Stupid Darkness!) is directed by Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots, As You Like It).

Direct from the West End, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons runs at Theatre Royal Brighton for one week only from Tue 28 March – Sat 1 April 2023.

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