Review: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at the Opera House is ‘ambitious and delivers’

Writers and students know very well that restricting word counts can often stifle what you want to say.

But at the same time, they act as a guideline and stop you from waffling.

What about if there was a daily spoken word limit and it was the law? How would we cope? Would we seek a shortcut and abbreviate words and amalgamate them together? Would some of us who speak less than others find it quite normal?

These are some of the interesting questions posed in Sam Steiner’s play Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons which debuted at Edinburgh Fringe 8 years ago. Since then it has been performed all over the world.

The dystopian elements of the play and the exploration of language are interlinked and when the play begins, this sparks your interest as you can apply it to many news events. ‘Stop the Boats’ is a government slogan containing three words but it contains enough emotion and division to keep journalists and social media users talking for years to come.

This high concept is applied to the tropes of the romantic comedy and Jenna Coleman (Bernadette) and Aidan Turner (Oliver) play a couple who are navigating this from different political and ideological perspectives. Jenna is a lawyer who uses words to fight for others and Oliver is a musician who fights for fairness. They each perceive the other differently.

They meet at a cat’s funeral and once you get past this other high-concept plot device, you begin to engage with their chats and debates, as their words begin to run out.

There is much enjoyment to be had, listening to this couple and questioning your own word choices and the way you communicate. For example, some people use many words but do not say a great deal. Others use words to blindside you and some use words to simplify a complicated situation for their gain.

Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner are both likeable, even though their characters are deeply flawed and not always on the same page. They make the play feel quite natural and real, even when you start to question the central concept. I was left thinking, what happens if you try to go over the government word limit, do your words run out, or are you fined? Why is this taking place?

But these questions are never answered because, like a high-concept blockbuster film, this is the selling point of the piece and the device used to get you in. Add two very famous actors who have a huge following via shows such as Poldark, Doctor Who and The Sandman and you can see why this play is a hit with audiences.

There are funny moments and it does engage you beyond the parlour game feel of having too few words to express yourself. Robert Jones’s design works very well, as the walls are filled with projections of items associated with this couple. And they disappear over time, as they struggle to communicate effectively.

This is an ambitious play and Sam Steiner’s main strength is the dialogue and the way these two people bounce off each other. But when it comes to the politics and parallels to what is happening today, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons does fall short.

It is only 95 minutes long with no intervals and it promises more than it delivers. If you are a fan of these two great actors, you will have a good evening.

But the film When Harry Met Sally explores relationships with more depth and breadth and Nick Payne’s two-hander play Constellations uses language brilliantly and has more pain, angst and feeling, taking you on a journey of discovery.

Whereas here, the ride is interesting but the destination is somewhere you may feel you have been before.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is at the Opera House until 25th March and tickets can be booked here.


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