Walrus Theatre won a clutch of awards for Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons at the National Student Drama Festival this year and it’s not hard to see why. Sam Steiner’s taut two-hander comes at the issue of free speech from an intriguing and original perspective, imagining a world in which words are rationed and democracy drastically imperiled as a result. Or at least that’s the way liberal-leaning, banner-waving Oliver (Euan Kitson) sees it. His divorce lawyer, working-class-lass-made-good girlfriend Bernadette (Beth Holmes) isn’t so sure: as long as everyone has the same limitations on what they say, we’re all in the same boat, right, and no harm done?
Under Ed Franklin’s deft direction, Holmes and Kitson flit backwards and forwards in time, moving between the flirtatious early days of Bernadette and Oliver’s relationship, and the highly charged battles that occur further down the line. The actors never touch, their physical isolation an ongoing and effective symbol of the couple’s failure to communicate, even in the midst of their most loving interactions.
Lemons... has something of the feel of a romantic comedy—Steiner’s witty script yields frequent laughs, and Holmes and Kitson deliver his snappy dialogue with panache. But this is a play with politics at its core and protagonists who reveal more and more of their flaws the longer we spend with them. Neither is let off the hook as far as their beliefs are concerned.
A stunning reveal—which I won’t spoil here—adds another layer of enjoyment to this complex piece of theatre. It’s a work I’d gladly see a second time.