Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons @Harold Pinter Theatre, London
Poldark. Clara from Doctor Who…or Queen Victoria. Aidan Turner doing his Irish accent. Jenna Coleman has gone blonde! Similar to Constellations, this is a relationship drama — only this time we’re in dystopia. Although written in 2015, with a view to silencing the socials and sharing, this now feels very contemporary in a world where Lockdowns, the banning of strikes and protest and police corruption are realities.
With a fantastic stripped down set with excellent lighting, we flash back — and forwards — through a relationship. We see a couple meeting, in their relationship, verbose with discussions and having to charge through painful discussions as the seconds tick by, leading to a new law where communication is restricted to 140 words a day. Unless you’re a politician. (Or working in a protected sector such as law courts, which as a family lawyer, Jenna Coleman’s Bernadette is). Where and how words are used become important — vital — essential.
Navigating this brave new world, the couple try truncating, morse code and eye contact, before moving often into sad silences, literal word counts and stunted arguments. Should a child even be brought into this world — is a concise child truly a child? Poignant, gripping and funny by turns, Coleman and Turner engage throughout. Turner’s Oliver is angsty, revolutionary, joining protest marches with an ex-girlfriend, an artist who has suddenly lost his words and increasingly sad. Bernadette moves in sadness and in thoughtful nuance, though she can be distracted and interrupt a story with her own recollections.
Like Constellations, there are heaps of f-bombs, mostly from Bernadette, and unlike Constellations, a communication trick is missed. No sign language! If Oliver can buy a book on Morse Code, surely they can watch a Sign Language video or even Makaton. An opportunity was lost to contrast the voiced against sign speaking in an ableist advantaged world. Suddenly those who sign are the privileged, the ‘norm’, the standard against which others are measured by.
The play shows the power of live theatre as, when Aidan Turner’s character does a big reveal — there was a huge shocked gasp around the auditorium. Much was made (by Oliver) of Bernadette’s working class roots in a posh lawyer’s world — which was odd given that he was both Irish and artistic. This class discussion doesn’t quite come off in the script and it could have been developed further, given the class divide that was starkly illuminated during the UK Lockdowns. Given how we’re all ‘just sayin’, reaching out and creating communities where we can use our voice, the subject overall is pertinent and huge credit goes to the actors for drawing us in and immersing us in their world.