Writer: Sam Steiner
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
What would you say if you were only allowed 140 words a day? Who would you talk to? How would you cope? Sam Steiner’sLemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after a successful run last year,is a play about wasted breath, about reading between the lines, about the infinite power of words, and about the times when words are simply not enough. It’s an original, touching, charming thought experiment.
Lemonsfollows the relationship of Bernadette (Beth Holmes) and Oliver (Euan Kitson), from obligatory cute meet in a pet cemetery, through their heady, giggly dating days, and into the unbearably adorable life they make for themselves afterwards. She’s a divorce lawyer, he’s a musician. She’s secure and sensible. He’s frail and fiery. So far, so sickeningly sweet.
It slowly becomes clear, however, that a government bill – the ‘hush law’ – is limiting the number of words people can use per day to 140. And it is Steiner’s ensuing linguistic experimentation that elevates his playfrom middle-of-the-road rom-com to provocative philosophical tract.
Reminiscent of Caryl Churchill’s more formally experimental work,Lemonsjumps around rapidly in time; short snatches of conversation, both limited and not, follow one another rapidly. At times, Steiner delves joyously into rich, naturalistic, pre-limit torrents of argument and chatter, before suddenly breaking off into staccato, halting, post-limit rhythms: “Day?” “Good. Yours?” “Good.”
Ed Madden directs imaginatively, having Holmes and Kitson revolve around each other on a bare, featureless stage, occasionally mirroring each other’s movements exactly, occasionally falling intentionally out of sync. It’s compellingly hypnotic.
Holmes and Kitson – in two commendably sensitive, understated performances – manage to imbue their dialogue – limited or otherwise – with affection and emotion. Perhaps most moving is when, unable to bear the constraints any longer, they burst into an exuberant rendition of theFresh Prince of Bel Airtheme.
Runs until: Sunday 28August 2016 (not Tuesdays)