Like all dystopian dramas, Sam Steiner’s new play starts from a situation near our own before spiralling, perfectly logically, to a state of anarchy and despotism.
Instead of its repetitive fruity title, it could have been called ”words, words, words”. Oliver, a composer meets Bernadette a lawyer at a pet cemetery, and that unusual play opening sets the scene for a show that is never quite what it says it is.
Without over-intellectualising what is anyway a cerebral piece, this is a sharp, dark but funny look at how lost freedoms eventually get coped with. The Government has announced that a new law, the outrageous Quietude Bill, will soon, if passed by Parliament, limit everyone’s daily speech to 140 words, and the law will also apply to writing.
With strong echoes of the Brexit vote, the policy divides the two characters – Oliver organises a “noise” demo to protest; Bernadette, the pragmatist, puts her faith in the bad law not being passed. But it is.
And so the remainder of this 85-minute absolute gem goes back and forth in time, sometimes with split-second scene and lighting changes, to chart not only their relationship, but also by revisiting situations, allows us to see what often lies behind the words they speak.
Along the way Steiner gives us their own way of dealing with the law- a sort of abbreviated, speech that miraculously conveys much more meaning than it seems to – but my word you have to be super alert to catch all the nuances.
Steiner doesn’t give us a happy ending – actually he doesn’t really give us an ending at all, but we leave the packed theatre thinking we better understand the human condition, and maybe alert to right-wing threats to our freedoms.
Director Josie Rourke keeps the pace hectic and the physical interactions between the two characters absolutely enthralling. TV/theatre royalty Aidan Turner (Poldark), and Jenna Coleman (Dr Who and The Serpent), grip their roles with energy, a sense of dark fun and absolute credibility.
The meaning of Robert Jones’ set – a towering, curved sets of pigeon holes full of household items – was a bit lost on me and it merely acts as a backdrop, but maybe it represents thoughts and words, who can tell? In the end it’s flown away to leave a bare, bleak stage.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons is at Brighton Theatre Royal until Saturday, April 1; then on a short tour. BOOK HERE
This article is 426 words, so would have been against the law.
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