Sam Steiner’s hit Edinburgh fringe show takes the form of a tightly written dystopian two-hander depicting a couple’s response to a new law restricting people’s speech. Because everyone is limited to just 140 words a day, everything they say carries a greater weight.
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons premiered in 2015, and returned to the fringe the following year in the Paines Plough Roundabout. Though a lot has changed since then politically, it still feels timely. It’s easy to see why First Floor Theatre has decided to revive it.
Steiner’s dialogue is sinewy and smart and his world-building is delicately handled. It’s a rewarding and enjoyable piece of writing in which not one moment or line feels extraneous. There are moments in Hamish Clayton’s direction that capture this quality and allow the script to soar – including a joyous singalong – but too often it feels busy and laboured.
Gregory Jordan’s lighting design has the lights flickering to red when one of the couple reaches their word limit. This is an understated and illustrative effect. The transitions between scenes are less successful. They’re accompanied by florid movement sequences, which rather than adding texture to the piece, overstates things.
Gareth Rowntree’s set is fussy and prop-heavy and the sound design is also heavy-handed, over-amplifying some of the plays narrative beats. Jemima Murphy and Charlie Suff give committed and charismatic performances, exuding a comfortable, well-worn chemistry, but too often it feels as if the production does not trust its audience – or the play – enough.