First performed in 2015, Sam Steiner‘s Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons is an intriguing idea. At its heart is simply a love story, charting the highs and lows of Bernadette and Oliver’s relationship; from the early meeting at the pet cemetery, through to moving in together and the difficult days when you say or do things that risk it all. But all great love stories need something to elevate them from being ‘just another love story’. And here things get interesting. Whilst we witness the ups and downs of the relationship, the government are pushing through new legislation limiting everyone to 140 words per day. It is an utterly bizarre idea that, if considered too deeply, would fall apart instantly. How would you even enforce such a law and why not just write the words instead of simply going silent once your word count was up? It’s best to just accept the concept; go with the flow.
So, six years on, this play is getting a new outing by amateur production company KDC Theatre, although there is very little that feels amateur about it. Director Lloyd Smith allows the love story to take centre stage, whilst the turmoil of the new law looms like a shadow over the characters’ shoulders. Others may have leaned more heavily on the political story, but Smith brings out much of the fun of the tale without risking getting bogged down in dissecting the social aspects.
Aoife Spengeman and David Hepburn play the couple with conviction. Spengeman’s Bernadette is cerebral, more accepting of the new law, while Hepburn’s David is angry and wanting to fight. The pair are kept on their toes by a script that speeds through scenes, showing us fleeting moments of their relationship, good and bad. At times scenes change too fast, with an excess of walking on and off stage in the tight confines of the Lion and Unicorn stage. It could do with a little more imagination in how to transition. Having said that, the voiceovers between scenes help, adding extra depth to the relationship. Maybe some use of blackout between scenes would allow the voiceovers to dominate further?
What also feels a strange decision is to step away from the linear storytelling briefly for a few scenes towards the end. It’s rather bizarre, given what has gone before. It seems to serve no purpose and for a moment risks confusion and fragmentation of the story.
But other elements more than make up for those little quibbles. The night is worth it alone for the pair’s hasty conversation five minutes before the new law comes into force, as they try to say everything they feel needs saying to each other. What starts with the obvious “I love you’s” quickly descends into airing previously unspoken pet hates. Bernadette’s rant about Oliver’s lovemaking technique is laugh out loud funny, and a later voiceover moment makes for a clever call-back to it.
Much of the enjoyment of this quirky story can obviously be put down to the original script, but there is no doubting that KDC Theatre bring out the fun elements well. There is plenty of laughter in tonight’s fairly packed benches. By focusing on the love story and rarely going too heavy on the politics they end up with an enjoyable and touching love story which demonstrates that, all too often, every word spoken really does count.
Written by: Sam Steiner
Directed by: Lloyd Smith
Produced by: KDC Theatre
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons plays at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 27 November. Further information and booking via the below link.