Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner took center stage on Tuesday night as weeks of preparation finally came to fruition at press night for the maddening new play Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons.
The actors star in this two-hander, a West End revival of Sam Steiner’s debut play – a huge success following its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015.
But critics left London’s Harold Pinter Theater with a slightly sour taste in their mouths after seeing Coleman – best known for her TV role as Queen Victoria – and Poldark star Turner bring it back to life.
Co-stars: Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner took center stage on Tuesday as weeks of preparation came to fruition at press night for the new play Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons
Time Out magazine gave the play three stars out of five, describing it as ‘a disarmingly bleak affair, at least when compared to eight years ago’ – blaming Brexit for its ‘tough’ tone.
However, the “beautiful” set design was praised, while Steiner’s words – some of which have been rewritten since the debut – were applauded for standing the test of time.
Elsewhere, The Times also offered three stars out of five, while claiming the play is running out of steam quickly.
Starring: The actors play Oliver and Bernadette in this two-hander, currently showing at London’s Harold Pinter Theater (pictured on stage)
Striking: Coleman turned heads backstage in a stylish black velvet dress with dropped shoulders on Tuesday’s press night
Can two good actors and a gifted director, Josie Rourke, add up to more than the sum of its parts in this cocktail of fun ideas? Not quite,” they write.
Even worse, a lilting Total Eclipse of the Heart song fades away when he runs out of words before she does. Every now and then they fall apart.’
Meanwhile, The Telegraph claimed it was “tempting, but limited” despite the two stars’ strong performances, writing, “Enough for fans to admire, but a few syllables short of a humdinger.”
Divided: Critics left London’s Harold Pinter Theater with a slightly sour taste in their mouths after watching Coleman revive Sam Steiner’s 2015 play, a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
LEMONS ALL! WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
Can two good actors and a gifted director, Josie Rourke, add up to more than the sum of its parts in this cocktail of fun ideas? Not quite’ – The times
‘A disarmingly sombre affair, especially compared to eight years ago’ – Timeout London
‘A bittersweet pleasure… a sad love story subtly interpreted by two luminous movie stars’ – The evening standard
“Enough for fans to admire, but a few syllables short of a humdinger” The Telegraph
“Coleman and Turner are endearing together, though they stay cute for too long and repeat riffs during their first meeting at a pet cemetery” – The protector
Finally Lemons felt a bit long despite the huge likability of the central clutch, but the central premise is compelling and it’s clear that author Sam Steiner is going to be a name we’ll all be much more familiar with’ – Montagigz
Mind me: Coleman was seen leaving the West End venue after her press night appearance on Tuesday night
Mixed reactions: While many critics felt the play had limitations, the set design was praised
The Evening Standard labeled Steiner’s play a “bittersweet delight” that “raises sweeping questions of communication and control, and a sad love story played out delicately by two luminous screen stars.”
Plus, you’ll be out in time for a late supper. As the characters might say, if they run short of their word quota: what not like?’
The Guardian reacted lukewarm to the production, adding, ‘Coleman and Turner are endearingly together, though they stay cute for too long, repeating riffs during their first meeting in a pet cemetery.
Popular: Coleman is starring in the play after starring in a string of high profile TV shows including the royal drama Victoria
Say cheese: (L-R) Playwright Sam Steiner, cast members Jenna Coleman, Aidan Turner and director Josie Rourke
“There’s a good use of silence as the couple hits the buffers of wordlessness, and their relationship gains momentum as the actors drop their rom-com routine and get real and tender, albeit quite late in the day.”
The play will be on stage for nine weeks and Jenna plays the law-abiding lawyer Bernadette while Aidan plays the free-spirited musician Oliver.
The official synopsis reads: “Let’s just talk ’til it’s over”. You are going to speak more than 123 million words in your lifetime. What are you going to do when they run out?
Dark Themes: The play explores a young couple’s response to a dystopian world where words are rationed by ‘laws of silence’
‘Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is a tender and funny rom-com about what we say, how we say it and what happens when we can’t say anything more’.
The play explores a young couple’s reaction to a dystopian world where words are rationed by ‘laws of silence’.
Director Jodie Rourke admitted to the publication that such laws would not exist in the real world.
She said: “Obviously, these kinds of laws are totally unenforceable. So it asks you to play along and think about how relationships survive under extreme conditions.
“It’s not a pandemic play, but it will resonate with people who felt the cracks in their relationships widened during the lockdown.”