Last week I was invited to review TG’s second show of the year, ‘Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons’ by Sam Steiner. I remember reading a duologue from this play many moons ago when I studied acting, and immediately falling in love with the dynamic between the two characters in the show, Bernadette and Oliver. For reasons I cannot explain, I never ended up reading the full play or even seeing it when it was in Manchester earlier this year, but it was always one I had in the back of my mind. So naturally, when TG invited me to review, I jumped at the chance.
In short: I think God or some higher being forced me to wait for this specific production.
This production was so effortlessly amazing in every-way, and the best thing I have seen at university. ‘Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons’ follows a couple, Oliver and Bernadette, throughout their relationship. They live in a dystopian universe where the Government imposes a 140 word limit to each citizen per day. This law comes into effect half way through their relationship.
Co-Directors James Barr and Eliza Christy just understood this play and its characters, and Ben Greenwood and Marnie Tiga Prentice, who played Oliver and Bernadette, executed their vision immaculately. Barr and Christy’s direction, with the assistance of Lucy Lawrence, particularly in regards to the physicality was compelling, especially when showing the jarring reality of the couple’s lack of communication. I particularly loved when both Oliver and Bernadette were walking in an almost robotic fashion around the stage, repeatedly saying ‘we’ll talk about this later’, clearly avoiding difficult conversations with each other, forcing themselves to do the same routine and pretend that everything is fine: they were literally ‘bending over backwards’ for the other person.
This was later emphasised with hand taps on the floor, morse code and music, when they could no longer speak to each other because of the word limit. What they wanted to say just had to hang awkwardly in the air.
I also can’t not mention the last scene, where Oliver uses up his last few words by singing Billy Ocean’s ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ to Bernadette, and then for a second of normalcy and out of nowhere, the song plays really loud and they have a dance break. It diffused the tension we had seen between the couple in the last half an hour of the play, and almost eradicated their inability to communicate like they did at the beginning. This made it only more shocking that Oliver finished this sequence with the admission that he cheated on Bernadette.
Walking into Banham Theatre, I was immediately transported to a white purgatory. Producer Eddie Tansley, alongside their assistants Lucy Heron and Alice Jones, had created an immaculately white set. White guitar, white table, white cans of beans, white clock, white articulate board game: the world of the play, the character’s flat, was plain white. As the play went on, both Bernadette and Oliver would bring life to the flat by swapping their white lifeless belongings to colourful ones, partly highlighting their shared life together and the colourful happy world they lived in together, but also highlighting their comfortableness as a couple, as they both shared intimate parts of their personalities through these colours that brought their world to life. Which again, only made it much more shocking and heart-wrenching to learn that Oliver had cheated on Bernadette at the end of play, as this loveless action of cheating juxtaposed the loved and lived living space around them. I imagine Bernadette’s character would feel that their lives had returned back to that white, empty existence.
Overall, the production was incredible. Greenwood and Prentice provided a masterclass in acting. Their chemistry on stage was insane, and their nuanced delivery was consistently fantastic. These two are actors to watch. Barr and Christy, with the assistance of Lawrence, proved that directing is just as much, if not more of a demanding role than the actor, with clear direction for each beat of the play. So much thought and hard work went into this show. It is no wonder it sold out every night of its run.
Edited by: Ella Morris