Reviews are coming in for Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons starring Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.
Sam Steiner’s 2015 drama is directed by Josie Rourke, and plays at the Harold Pinter Theatre to 18 March 2023.
Lemons is about the impact on one couple of a ‘hush law’ imposed by the government, in which they are restricted to only speaking 140 words a day.
Alongside Josie Rourke on the creative team are designer Robert Jones, lighting designer Aideen Malone, movement by Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster and costume designer by Kinnetia Isidore.
The play will also run at Manchester Opera House (21-25 March) and Theatre Royal Brighton (28 March-1 April).
See reviews from The Times, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard, TimeOut, The Guardian, The Stage, The Independent and more.
More reviews to follow
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons reviews
"Tantalising despite limitations"
"After countless ‘hack’ words, how teasingly neat of stars Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner to join forces in a zesty play"
"Steiner is probing personal and philosophical questions about how we relate to each other through language and whether restricted freedom of speech, crushing as it sounds, might force people to face essentials."
"Like Duncan Macmillan’s eco-minded Lungs and Nick Payne’s multiverse-leaping hit Constellations, this compact affair uses the equivalent of jump-cuts to describe the arc of a couple’s relationship, some scenelets lasting moments. The frustration is that it isn’t in the same league as those other works – it’s a tad too sketchy, shrugging aside the logistics, for instance, of how this law could feasibly be implemented."
"Yet it’s a testament to the potency of the conceit, and the dynamism and subtle chemistry of Coleman and Turner, their every move, look and switch deftly supervised by director Josie Rourke, that you’re hooked and, even if not fully smitten and persuaded, tantalised and intrigued."
" Coleman is captivatingly winsome, bright, brittle at points, her hands on hips, but perhaps lacking a dash of acid, citric or otherwise, when things get more unpleasant. Watching every counted word with her, Turner is gangly, lofty yet likeable, sweetly bashful but also prone to remote stares."
"Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman make this a bittersweet pleasure"
"Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is a sad love story subtly enacted by the two luminous screen stars"
"Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner add glamour and heft to Sam Steiner’s cultish 2015 fringe hit about language, that’s now vaulted into the West End."
"This slight, absurd concept, inspired by Twitter’s character-count and clearly unworkable in any practical sense, proves a surprisingly flexible metaphor for the restriction of liberty. It also enables Steiner to explore how people spar, hedge and evade in everyday conversation."
"The changes in the dynamic between them come out in the roll of Turner’s shoulders and the quizzical tilt of Coleman’s jaw. These are detailed physical performances in a play about words."
"The script is expertly crafted and sometimes incisive. Steiner doesn’t beat any particular drum, but the central concept strikes chords in contemporary politics, both in recent attempts to limit the right to protest or to strike here, and in more authoritarian regimes overseas."
"Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner are a couple struggling in a language-rationed world in this inventive but bleak romcom"
"... Josie Rourke’s surprise West End revival, starring telly faves Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner is a disarmingly bleak affair, or certainly in comparison to eight years ago. You can probably blame Brexit for some of this... The fracture between Oliver’s activism and Bernadette’s apolitical uncertainty feels deeper and more pointed, a parable about creeping fascism."
"This dourness is underscored by Coleman and Turner’s frosty, unforgiving takes on Bernadette and Oliver."
"I’m probably making it sound like a chore, and it’s not. Steiner’s writing is smart and pithy, and Coleman and Turner give very raw, very human performances that feel deeply personal. If they’re miscast in any way it’s that they’re digging a bit too deep for what maybe worked better as a fizzy, cerebral play of ideas in which the actors played second fiddle to the writing."
"Wordplay rom-com is short and sharp, but hits a character limit"
"Can two good actors and a gifted director, Josie Rourke, make this cocktail of cute ideas add up to more than the sum of its parts? Not quite."
"Heavens, you long to be on the side of Josie Rourke’s lickety-spit production. There’s such a sense of possibility at play here, such a fizzing sense of “why not?” about Steiner’s writing, even if the overtones of Brexit and Twitter character limitations root it slightly in its time."
"Both performers bring pace and attack, though Coleman works a bit too hard, stays a bit too resolutely in the over-bright banter mode."
"So this remains a cerebral pleasure, a one-off that is somehow both bold and tentative with its ideas. Coleman and Turner give it plenty but can’t quite sustain the interest to the end of its running time."
"Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman star in sharp drama"
"Josie Rourke’s West End revival of Sam Steiner’s fringe hit really lifts when the show’s starry duo drop their romcom routine"
"Rourke’s great accomplishment here is that it looks fit for a West End stage, despite being a prop-free two-hander, while retaining its breezy minimalism."
"Coleman and Turner are endearing together, although they remain cutesy for too long, repeating riffs on their first meeting in a pet cemetery."
"There are a few lovely late scenes when the couple use words not for their literal meanings but underlying effects, singing and creating a non-verbal, embodied language between them. If words are rationed or banned, this play suggests, we will find other ways to express our love."
"Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman squeeze out the juice"
"It’s nice that Sam Steiner’s 2015 fringe gem has been plucked out for the West End, but it doesn’t seem the best way to serve a bright new writing talent"
"There’s a lot of fun to be had with this concept, which feels slightly dated by the clear influence of Twitter (a platform that’s long since jumped the shark) but fluid enough to keep us thinking."
"The actors make for a charming duo, with Coleman particularly strong as quick-thinking Bernadette, who doesn’t always need words to understand what is going on. And Steiner’s writing is genuinely exciting – fresh, funny, thoughtful. But it feels overstretched on a West End stage, pulled to its limits to justify a longer running time, giving it a whiff of celeb vanity project. Nor does the production, directed by Josie Rourke, match the inventiveness of the script."
"Timely and tart"
"Slick, starry production of Sam Steiner’s tart but undernourished two-hander"
"It gets slick, sensitive direction here from Josie Rourke, and finely calibrated, appealing performances from Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman and Poldark’s Aidan Turner. But all that accomplished presentation, and a West End stage, expose how slender and derivative the piece actually is. Its ideas are not without interest and there’s some skill – if also self-consciousness – in its careful deployment of motifs and themes. Inescapably, though, it’s like a mash-up of Nick Payne’s Constellations and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, overhung by the looming shadow of Caryl Churchill – and by comparison with all three, it looks a little pallid."
"As characters, Bernadette and Oliver are undernourished, but Coleman and Turner convincingly generate the sparks of attraction, easy-going affection, fractious irritation and painful disintegration of their romantic trajectory. And Rourke balances fluidity with mounting unease. There’s tart intelligence and some sweetness here. But the play leaves you longing for something fuller-flavoured."
"Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner bring bags of zest"
"The performers are on superlative form in Sam Steiner’s sometimes bewildering two-hander about love and language"
"Energy levels in the 90-minute running time never falter thanks to two performers in superlative form. Coleman is emotionally vivid, gently revealing the soft side underneath Bernadette’s brisk lawyer exterior, whereas Turner is all livewire unpredictability, flintily resolute behind Oliver’s free-spirited musician persona. This review is 450 words long – just imagine having less than a third of them to last for an entire 24 hours."
"Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman keep it brief in Sam Steiner’s social media allegory"
"The questions tick round as they might in a Christmas board game. Sometimes they gain an added echo, as they brush against a present-day dilemma: how do people adapt, protest, confine themselves under sudden arbitrary change – hush or pandemic?"
"Yet a vital sense of disturbance is almost entirely absent. A cut-up chronology means that the necessarily elliptical plot lacks propulsion."
"Coleman is bright, quick but edgeless. Turner has a strong, relaxed presence, ambling with ease towards a kind of coercion. Yet their exchanges are rarely urgent: they are careful with each other, as if they were moving around avatars rather than their own lives."
"Fleetness is not helped by Robert Jones’s design, which stacks a dark wall with closely packed objects – a bicycle wheel, a guitar, a shopping bag, a bedhead – presumably to remind us of jettisoned words: it’s impressive but distracting, though Aideen Malone’s lighting cleverly shoots up and down, fading in and out to mark the passing of time."
"Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, a revived 2015 chin-stroker from Sam Steiner, is altogether more pretentious. It’s the sort of show, in fact, that a self-regarding prat like that Sam bloke might relish."
"Turner is that chap who paraded his hairy chest on TV’s Poldark a few years ago. Coleman is best known from Emmerdale. The two of them are equally gorgeous and should make a perfect match, but while Coleman has chemistry with Turner he doesn’t return the ball. The staging is pseudish, the plotting episodic and the script bland for a play about the value of language. Steiner barely addresses the politics of a state telling people to be quiet in their own homes. Instead there is just a coy schmooze-story about two credulous boobies."
"More mute than cute - Aidan and Jenna's show is a lemon"
"Give them — or almost anyone — a gimmicky script like this one by Sam Steiner and they will inevitably wind up sounding like Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, waffling to kill time on This Morning."
"Coleman and Turner are pretty game, although both perform in Josie Rourke's listless production as if standing at an invisible bus stop. Mostly, it's folding arms and pacing or looking about. There is some shrugging; a few flashes of anger."
"... a story that actually provoked emotional involvement or tested the actors' talents would have been nice."