In any romantic relationship, one finds oneself developing an intimate, coded language of in-jokes and pet names, a dialect that reflects a couple’s time together. But imagine if this abbreviated form of communication became, not a choice, but a necessity. Imagine being limited to speaking no more than 140 words a day.
Lemons is a masterpiece of beautiful simplicity.
Returning to Edinburgh after its successful run at last year’s Fringe, Sam Steiner’s award-winning play is a thought-provoking reflection on the way we communicate. A law is introduced that restricts all individuals to a daily word limit. It follows Oliver and Bernadette as they meet, grow to know each other and, after the law passes, come to terms with a world in which there is no room for repetition, hesitation or deviation in what you say.
Beth Holmes and Euan Kitson are phenomenal as the two characters, breathing life into the relationship with effortless naturalism and touching onstage chemistry. With deft skill they guide the audience from raucous laughter to moments of tear-welling poignancy. An especially memorable scene sees them trying desperately to pack everything they’ve ever wanted to say to each other into the final five minutes before the new law comes into the action, the conversation naturally ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The script is intricately crafted and packed with relatable relationship ticks. Careful and effective choreography, which sees the two actors touch only once in the whole play, heightens our sense of the play’s meticulously structured symmetry, as we move between vignettes of life before and after the passing of the “hush law”. This is further enhanced by the play’s technical simplicity, absent of any changes in lighting or sound effects.
Despite the strong acting and script, the play starts to lag slightly towards the end and, considering how powerful some of the play’s earlier moments are, it is a little disappointing that the ending is not more so. These are small quibbles, however, and does not stop one marvelling at the generally high quality of the production. Lemons is a masterpiece of beautiful simplicity.