Next week, a truly special play comes to the OSO. Exciting new theatre company Fight or Flight Productions are presenting their adaption of the hottest script in recent years- Sam Steiner’s Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Lemons tells the story of an alternate world where the government has imposed a word limit on its citizens- 140 words a day. What begins as a tightly written love story about the strains on the relationship between protagonists Oliver and Bernadette expands into a wide-reaching discussion of free speech and totalitarianism. We sat down with director Jess Barton to discuss why Lemons is such an important play for the modern world.
Who are Fight or Flight Productions? Tell us about your history as a production company.
Fight or Flight all began over a cup of coffee in June 2012. We were a team of wide-eyed (almost) graduates, who had enjoyed producing our university production of RENT so much that the next logical step was to form a theatre company and continue making shows. Since then we’ve become less wide-eyed, and more realistic about the amount of dedication and hard-work that goes into producing a show – although we’re still stupidly passionate about all things theatre, and love creating new worlds to put on the stage.
We have an eclectic and varied history of productions, from musicals (Company, Last Five Years – we were after all originally a team of musical theatre kids), to adaptations of children’s literature (The Secret Garden), to ambitious original scripts (we embarked on a Brother’s Grimm-esque trilogy a few years ago!), to immersive and site-specific promenade – generally if it makes our minds whirl with intrigue and excitement then we’ll start planning how to stage it!
Why have you chosen to stage Lemons?
This is one of those scripts that spoke to my state of mind. It’s dark, and honest, and sensitive, and terrifying, and political, and so wrapped in its characters and their interwoven flaws. And on top of that it is sarcastic, natural, and playful with language, and it manages to make me laugh – not the easiest feat. A friend recommended I read the script, and I fell in love with it within the first couple of pages. Sam Steiner has created a beautifully fluid dialogue that is an absolute dream to work with.
Despite being a very new play, Lemons has been phenomenally successful. Why do you think it has been so popular?
At its core, it is a play that is hugely relatable to a lot of people. Oliver and Bernadette are in their mid-twenties, trying to find their place in life as well as within a new relationship, fighting the daily struggles that all of these situations bring – plus the addition of being under a controlling, and verging on totalitarian, government. That faceless fear is something that definitely rings slightly too close to home for audiences, now more than ever. The current political climate, combined with the constantly developing technological advances makes the world in which Lemons is set one that we don’t instantly write off as unbelievable. It isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, and that is one of the most harrowing aspects of the show.
Equally, we recognise the characters. Both flawed, both likeable in their own way, both trying desperately to make things work. There are numerous moments in the play where you can feel the bristling of audience members as they see their own lives, and conversations they’ve been a part of, happen before them – which is absolutely down to the style in which it is written; the text is screaming to be delivered, and that’s an incredible atmosphere to experience.
If you could only say 140 words a day, what would you say?
I’d like to believe I could be clever and have fun with words, but in reality there’d probably just be a lot of coffee orders and the occasional sarcastic remark.
Talk us through the rehearsal process for the play.
We had an intense twelve-day rehearsal period prior to our January performances at the Etcetera Black Box Festival in Camden. Due to the fast-paced and natural style of the script, I wanted to make the most of the John and Alice’s natural chemistry, so we worked very organically in the initial staging of the text. Once scripts were down, it became more about the backstory, the character’s relationship and motivations, and how they communicate through everyday physicality. Equally, as it is such a raw and intimate piece, we worked a lot on rediscovering the subtler side of performance, and how an underplayed delivery can result in that added depth of character.
What’s next for Fight or Flight?
We have a few ideas for theatrical adventures in the works, as well as juggling our own fairly hectic personal theatre lives. We are aiming to have a new show developing through the Autumn, keep your eyes peeled!
In one sentence, why should people come to see the show?
Thought-provoking, tender, truthful – It is so relevant, and genuinely ticks all of the boxes.
Lemons runs at the OSO for 4 days only, from the 23rd- 26th May. Tickets are selling fast, so book now to avoid disappointment.