Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons has dominated the student theatre scene and it was only a matter of time before DST tackled this endeavour. Thankfully, Sophie Wright and her team did the production justice and left the audience in fits of laughter.
It’s hard to go wrong with Lemons; based on the limitation of words to a mere 140 per day, it is eerily relevant to our society of Twitter word limits (not to mention May’s imminent monitoring of the internet), but also offers a contemporary humour and insightful outlook on relationships. Lemons gives the full package and is fast becoming everyone’s favourite play, and I can see why after Phoenix Theatre Company’s Black Box production.
Wright stayed true to the original, with minimalist design leaving Ambika Mod (Bernadette) and Andrew Cowburn (Oliver) exposed before the entire audience. Thankfully, the pair provided a highly comedic performance and were a truly likeable couple, neither actor overshadowing the other. Their fast pace exchanges and witty arguments were delivered excellently, particularly the car dispute that is all too relevant in today’s society. This was all delivered with such naturalism that I think every audience member could place themselves in any given situation and this accessibility was a large contributor to the success of the production.
However, both actors had a slight tendency to anticipate their punchlines before they were delivered which detracted somewhat from the humour of the script. This overfamiliarity with their lines can easily be attributed to first night nerves, which also led to the garbling of some lines, and, while the fast paced exchanges were often comedic, I would strongly encourage the pair to slow down to tease out the finer moments of humour.
The comedic performance, however, was clearly the strength of both actors and caused the scenes of relational intimacy to fall somewhat flat. While the play centres around Bernadette and Oliver’s failing relationship, I never truly believed the chemistry between the pair, especially in their period of reconciliation. While the singing of the Fresh Prince of Belair was heart-warming, moments such as their return to the cemetery, which begged for nostalgic reconciliation, were somewhat disappointing. This can easily be overcome with subtle directorial changes such as a simple hand on the shoulder that I feel would add so much more to the overall production.
However, Wright’s efforts at exposing the differences between the worlds with and without the word limit were well chosen and extremely clear. Mod and Cowburn also delivered this excellently and their contrasting relationship was palpable throughout, upholding the main concept of the production faultlessly. The clarity between worlds was so clear, however, that I felt that the slight movements between scenes were unnecessary and disruptive to the pace. I felt that the change in tone and pace of the actors was more than enough to indicate the differences and Wright should have faith in her excellent directorial decisions and the strength of her actors to highlight this.
All in all, however, Wright’s production of Lemons was hugely successful and does justice to the original script. It is humorous, engaging and though provoking and shows exactly why Lemons is such a popular play.