first night

Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons

Shona Graham gets one of her five-a-day with Phoenix Theatre Company's latest theatrical offering.

Sophie Wright, Andrew Cowburn and Ambika Mod have produced a little gem in the heart of the DSU. Though the original play is wonderful in and of itself, the company brought honesty, intensity and vulnerability to their production of Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons—three things that I crave from a good theatrical experience.

The black box in the DSU was the perfect space for such a stripped-back play, leaving the audience with no distractions from the drama unfolding. Not that distraction was likely; I was utterly absorbed by the piece, and felt that it was the perfect length and emotional intensity to allow for total concentration.

The play aptly conveys the pitfalls of a serious romantic relationship in the context of a fantastical dystopian society where people can only speak 140 words a day. Whilst the modern piece is therefore very focused on dialogue, the company’s non-textual additions were some of the most engaging parts. The subject matter was handled effectively, and the use of space was innovative without being overdramatic.

Andrew Cowburn’s Oliver was a highly enjoyable character to watch, with his boyish charm and wild-eyed passion in a tense political climate. His mannerisms kept the play grounded in an exploration of young adulthood and maintaining mature relationships when you’re barely mature yourself. His relationship with Ambika Mod’s Bernadette felt genuine and complex, though occasionally I would have appreciated even more nuance to the arguments between the established couple. That said, the peaks and troughs of energy and emotion were fantastically timed, and made the play even more engaging. Ambika Mod excelled in her portrayal of Bernadette, and my eye was often drawn to her onstage. She effortlessly handled the complexity of the character, making her seem very authentic. Her chemistry with Cowburn was obvious, particularly in their uses of joint comedic timing, which were sheer perfection. I left feeling like I knew both characters intimately, and indeed was left wanting more in regards to their story and development.

It was clear that much of the direction had been collaborative by the actors’ dedication to the choices made onstage. However, Sophie Wright must be commended for her work on this play, as the directorial vision was apparent throughout and kept the jumping timeline from becoming disorientating.

Lemons ticks all of the boxes: entertaining but poignant, current but subtle, polished but raw. If that’s the final show I’ll see in Durham, I will be happy to leave with memories of just how good Durham Student Theatre can be.

17 June 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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