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Short Straw draws again: the sweet triumph of Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at Motley Bauhaus


Image via Short Straw Theatre Company Instragram


After the triumph that was the staging of The Effect last year, the entire theatre-sphere was excited to see what the Short Straw Theatre Company would do next. With their new work Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, I am pleased to say, dear reader, that they’ve done it again. This show was so good that I am frantically writing this review—mere hours after having just gone through an extraction of all four of my wisdom teeth—because I deem it necessary that people know how good it was.

Written by British playwright Sam Steiner, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is a nonlinear tale, working off of the premise of a society where a “hush law” has been introduced. To make their dues, to communicate with their loved ones, to argue, to lament, people can use only 140 words per day, spoken or otherwise. Within this context, the audience follows a series of vignettes about two people in a relationship: Oliver (played by Freddie Carew-Reid), a musician who participates wholeheartedly in activism against the “totalitarian” hush law; and Bernadette (played by Lucinda Smith), a lawyer from a working-class background with a deeply pragmatic streak. Carew-Reid and Smith are an endearing pairing, balancing the humour, the conflict, and the politics of their relationship seemingly with ease. Whether it be a game of Articulate, the learning of Morse code, or the hilarious confessional shared between the two in the last five minutes before the hush law comes into effect—‘I JUST WANT YOU TO HAVE AT ME!’ is a highlight—the flashbacks and flashforwards of their intricate relationship are portrayed stunningly by the two performers.

What it lacks in words,  it makes up for in movement. Charlotte Rogers’ direction is filled to the brim with a masterful sense of nuance. Several key moments of the play revolve around difficult pacing, with characters speeding through dialogue at the risk of hitting the limit. The urgency of these moments is held fast by keen movements that Rogers has beautifully set in place; from the awkwardness of first encounters to the rapid flurry of argumentative gestures, every inch of the play is directed to perfection. With the almost larrikin attitude to Oliver’s speech and the refined tone of Bernadette, it also brings a uniquely Australian feel to what is initially a British play. Massive kudos to lighting designer Jacques Cooney-Adlard, whose work brings much warmth to the intimate space in the Motley Black Box. The simulation of the light of a television, in the scenes where Oliver and Bernadette were watching the news, was a particular standout that left the crowd in awe. Much credit goes to  producer Hazel Pilgrum and marketing officer Clare Wever, whose work combined put forward a charming presentation of the production.

Fundamentally, Short Straw’s production is a deeply charming, dense play. Within the premise of a word limit, it fits so much in so little—rich in story, feeling, and human connection. At the end of the day, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is an ironically bittersweet reminder of the way words run far deeper than surface level; a reminder that love is a choice, love is a decision, love is a commitment, and every word matters. Literally.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons was staged at the Motley Bauhaus in Carlton from 14-16 March.

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It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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