At a time when everyone has an opinion about Brexit and national policy comes Sam Steiner’s dystopian drama Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons to London’s Barons Court Theatre next month.
A 2015 Edinburgh Fringe hit that questions freedom of speech and the power of language, Lemons is directed by Hamish Clayton, and features the up-and-coming talent of producer Jemima Murphy and actor Charlie Suff.
The British government has introduced a law limiting speech for its citizens to 140 words a day. For Bernadette and Oliver, every word they speak will have to really mean something. They devise new ways to communicate with each other within the constraints of the law, but without the freedom to use words as they wish, they are helpless…
First Floor Presents’ stark and powerful production deliberates today’s social conflicts and the wider issues of democracy, influencing through social media and communication.
Speaking with her producer’s hat on, Murphy told Stage Review: “Today we are overwhelmed with words and though we have them available, we often say very little. We forget the power of language and disregard what our words are worth. But imagine a time where every word holds significance.
“In Lemons we see the blossoming and breakdown of a couple living under this new law. When silence displaces their language, the poignancy, power, and particularisation of language are revealed. Oliver and Bernadette ask themselves if they will ever truly know each other.
“In a world where Donald Trump announces his agenda via Twitter, Lemons could not be more relevant to demonstrate the power of language. We understand language as a tool of communication: social media, politics, news, radio, theatre and music. When this is taken away who suffers? Can we seek a strength in this controlled society?
“Obviously in this time of political and economical uncertainty today, we think that this play is vital to what is going on in the world and particularly in the UK.
“The ‘hush’ law in Lemons parallels that of the EU referendum, where everyone was in denial about it actually materialising – the unexpected. I think freedom of speech is becoming more and more of an issue, less so in UK, but in other countries people are prevented and threatened against speaking out.”
Steiner’s language is sharp, punchy and on point: First Floor examines the strength of physical behaviour and how it can, at times, be stronger than language itself”.
Director Clayton adds: “In a country still wrestling with a decision it made two years ago, the backdrop we see today is wholly similar to the backdrop of the ‘Quietude Bill’ introduced in Lemons.
“The parallels are remarkable, to the extent you’d think the play had been written this year. So purely in terms of today’s context, the need for protest, freedom of speech and debate is so important because every voice must be heard when such a huge decision is being made.
“Away from the politics, the play epitomises the truth that romantic relationships can be the best and the worst things. At times it can feel effortless, beautiful and full of joy. But sometimes it can feel venomous and cruel.
“From my experience relationships can allow each partner to grow, only to find the two of you have indeed grown, but in different directions. What was once welcome, even attractive differences become gulfs which can’t be bridged.
“We don’t treat the limited-dialogue scenes differently. Perhaps there is more left unsaid, perhaps there is more subtext, more being said underneath the words.
“When you know someone so well, you can simply sit in the same room as them and know exactly how they’re feeling, without the need for words.
“But given how many relationships break down due to a lack of good communication, Oliver and Bernadette face a greater challenge than we currently do due to the imposition of the daily word-limit”.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons runs at Barons Court Theatre from May 6-26.
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