Loyia diz lemonias
Sam Steiner’s play Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons (Harold Pinter Theatre) is intriguing and very relevant to our impatient world of instant want and gratification, where our two ears are used far less than one mouth. Lawyer Bernadette (Jenna Coleman) and musician Oliver (Aidan Turner) are in a relationship. He was born in a castle, she is a working class gal proud of her roots. Over the course of Josie Rourke’s engaging 90 minute production we see the two of them in various situations throughout their time together. However, the most significant intervention in their lives comes from the introduction of the new Quietude Law. It requires people to limit the number of words they use to 140 per day. A law sponsored by Twitter perhaps.
Coleman and Turner have excellent onstage chemistry and the play is a good vehicle for each to demonstrate their talent. That said the times and places that Steiner chooses to present are odd. A non-linear narrative is fine if the approach is consistent and cohesive. At one point we see them in a pet cemetery, then we experience what is a banal conversation about her anxiety around her past relationships and how that use of language may make it difficult for the two of them to gel in this new world. In between we get elements of a sugary romcom which oddly are more interesting and engaging than the more serious stuff. This is especially telling when there is a perfunctory reference to current government policy around public order and the right to protest.
Robert Jones’ design is simple enough, a projected backdrop of shelves showing a variety of everyday items. Again slightly abstract without meaning or link to the writing. A conceptual play without an overall concept. I wrote this review while having to endure inane chat onboard a plane (I had no earphones). Pythagoras said, “It is better either to be silent or to say things of more value than silence”. Such are the fruits of this lemon tree I’m afraid.
Meanwhile Stellaria Embellou sees a classy classic…
Phaedra (National Theatre) is an absorbing, witty and extremely well acted production, now re-imagined in a modern world by writer-director Simon Stone from the original story told by Euripides in Hippolytus. It includes a tour de force performance by Janet Mcteer, who plays Helen (Phaedra), a wealthy MP married to Hugo (Paul Chahidi), a couple with two homes and two kids. An idyllic life until the son of her former Moroccan lover turns up and turns everything on its head. The juices flow, lust and desire out of control threatening to ruin everything. The action takes place inside Chloe Lambert’s extremely clever and versatile set, a glass box cum cage which revolves to be different rooms, a snowy mountain in Morocco and a beautiful grassy marshland in Suffolk. Both voyeuristic and mesmeric.
Stefan Gregory’s music is striking. An eclectic mix of choral, techno and Arabic, sometimes a fusion of them all. The short musical bursts break up scenes heightening the drama and tension considerably. The pace is a little uneven but such is the power of the audio visual elements you remain enthralled throughout, especially as just about everybody is either manipulative, narcissistic or a toxic mix of both and more. Theatrically thrilling.
Finally Nikita Renstoullou sees the rotten core of filthy lucre…
Three actors play all the parts in The Lehman Trilogy (Gillian Lynne Theatre) giving us the history of the Lehman brothers from the moment they get off the boat from Jewish Mitteleuropa, bless America, the land of opportunity, to the day the receivers take over after the collapse. The set (Es Devlin) is a clever revolving glass affair which works brilliantly. Except when it literally doesn’t! The show was stopped twice for technical reasons, but the audience was incredibly supportive and cheered as it was fixed and resumed.
The story is not just of the Lehman brothers, but US capitalism – the whole ugly business of making money from nothing. At one point a character tells the Bros that the way forward is consumerism – selling people things they don’t need which they will buy with money they don’t have. But that money doesn’t actually come from nothing, it comes from someone’s hard labour. And in the case of Lehman, although they put in some graft initially, the major injection of funds came from the profits of cotton slaves. They didn’t own them but profiteered handsomely. Sam Mendes’ production is stunning in every sense with superb performances from Michael Balogun, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons’ – www.haroldpintertheatre.co.uk
Phaedra – www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
The Lehman Trilogy – www.lwtheatres.co.uk/theatres/gillian-lynne