3 Stars

★★★ Love, Language and Law: New Writing about Freedom of Speech

Charlotte Pegram reviews Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Euan Kitson (Oliver) and Beth Holmes (Bernadette) in Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons by Walrus in Warwick, at NSDF2015

We’re often told that we take our freedom of speech for granted, but Sam Steiner takes this idea to an extreme in his debut play Lemons. Set in a parallel world to our own, we see a young couple fall in love in the months before a new bill is passed in parliament, with the resulting Quietude Law limiting people to using only 140 words each per day.

The opening scenes are like a Rom-Com montage, lots of short snappy exchanges showing Oliver and Berndaette meeting, falling in love and then moving in together. Steiner is obviously fascinated by language; the couple discuss how the oddities of how couples privately use language, and we are given further montages of them using the phrase ‘I Love You’ with Euan Kitson and Beth Holmes showing their skill in delivering them in a multitude of ways, “I have stuff to do, I’ve left the washing-up – I love you.”

Holmes and Kitson are by far the best part of this production. Their naturalistic performance is wholly captivating and their presentation of Bernadette’s and Oliver’s relationship is entirely convincing. What I cared about as an audience member was how this impingement upon their freedom affected them as a couple, particularly the political disagreements they have over whether to protest against it. Unfortunately, whilst the idea of the ‘140-word day’ is interesting to explore it feels like an under-developed concept beyond the bounds of this couple’s life. With all those references to Oliver going on protest marches I wanted to know more about how the Quietude Law is controlled and/or punished. Instead, the playwright does an odd thing and keeps returning to and repeating conversations that the couple have at the beginning, which doesn’t particularly help in illuminating anything, rather I felt it slowed down the pace and left the play feeling unfinished.

This is an impressive debut and, although the ending doesn’t quite satisfy, the performances are more than enough to recommend it.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons plays at Summerhall until August 20th.


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