Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons.
Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner are a couple whose relationship is traced through this political, sharp and humorous play with the ‘absurd’ premis of a world where the spoken and written word has become limited to a daily 140 words per person, per day.
The scene opens on an insightful set design from Robert Jones, a curved wall displays the minutiae of daily life. The stunning lighting design, by Aideen Malone, which identifies the word-depleted scenes with pure white fluorescent. Bernadette and Oliver’s existence develops from a warm, chance meeting at the bizarre location of a cat’s funeral into the bleak sterilised world of desperate word counting. Coleman’s lawyer Bernadette is an insecure, sometimes cold, pragmatist trying to come to understand boyfriend Turner’s activist, musician who has more respect for his political friends, his ex and their demonstrations than her profession. Before the government imposed the “hush law” the couple ‘waste’ their words somewhat whilst spinning around their feelings rather than expressing them. Post-bill they use words and communicate more succinctly. The chemistry between the two actors was sizzling whether in love or fury. Any media references to them being light weight TV ‘lovies’ should be swiftly dismissed. It was a compelling experience – you just can’t take your eyes off the stage and the rapidly changing 100 scenes. Josie Rourke’s production certainly excels in harnessing the complexity of the piece.
There are moments that catch your breath particularly as the moment that the bill is passed into law and the point where we discover why the play is so named. As the relationship breaks down the wall set symbolically disappears behind them leaving items dangling precariously in the darkness.
Sam Steiner’s script is sharp; pithy when needed and jumps between tight and expansive whether in the pre or post new law scenes.
In the end the couple use words in a more free form using singing, body language as communication between them. I like to think that they survive this and grow closer as, apart from anything else, new dating under the 140 word rule would be a nightmare.