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 anymore. Written by Sam Steiner, it was first performed at the Warwick Arts Centre in 2015 before transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It recently made its West End debut at the Harold Pinter Theatre, starring Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner, and featured a lighting design by Aideen Malone; who approached White Light (WL) to supply her lighting fixtures.
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons focuses on the story of a couple who live in a world where a law is passed enforcing a 140-word limit per day for every person. It also features an incredibly intricate timeline, set over 101 scenes which rarely run in chronological order; something that had a strong influence on Aideen’s design. She explains: “The show is a two-hander and part of my brief was to collaborate with the director Josie Rourke and set designer Rob Jones to create a visual language that gave the impact needed for a West End show without upstaging the play’s integrity and the two performers. We discussed the possibility of creating a storyboard to map our way through the piece, but Josie wisely felt the play’s timeline and concept needed to be explored and discovered in detail during the rehearsal period.
She continues: “We proceeded with the design, creating a palette of options to support the discovery of how to represent the word count limit and its many forms of countdown. Rob’s design had two main components: an elliptical shaped pale performance floor surrounded by an impressive, curved black wall consisting of hundreds of shelves with thousands of props; mostly monochrome with some in colour. The first part of the lighting design was the set electrics to animate the set wall to clearly represent the word limit and the numerous countdowns needed. The second aspect was to have the flexibility to transform the wall and performance space to clearly show the locations in two different timelines: pre word limit and post word limit”.
Given that so much of the show was to be discovered throughout rehearsals, Aideen ensured that she was present during this entire process. She explains: “With any show I work on, I’m a great believer that you should always attend rehearsals. For Lemons in particular, exploring the play helped the whole team understand its complicated structure. It was very clear from even that first week that the visual language we created needed to help the audience know exactly where each scene was in the timeline of the word count as well as the couple’s relationship. The rehearsals also allowed me to see the blocking of the performers, which initially meant I had to keep it fairly flexible; prior to them being in the theatre and solidifying their movement”.
Knowing what she wanted to achieve with her design, Aideen approached the Customer Service team at WL to draw on the necessary fixtures. She comments: “The set electrics, made brilliantly by Electric Foundry, had three elements. The first was individually top lighting each shelf with warm and cool 16-bit LED tape hidden within a profile. The second was controlling several tungsten practicals, whilst the third being creating a hidden grid of RGBCW LED pixel tape. This meant we needed a control system that could manage a lot of channels; ultimately deciding on the ETC Eos control with 24,000! We also agreed to previsualise some countdown options so it wouldn’t take up valuable time in tech. The rig for the show needed flexibility with colour and focus and to have as low a carbon footprint as possible. As such, I specified all LED movers and profiles consisting of Martin MAC Encores, Aryton Diablos and ETC Lustr Profiles. With this reliable combination, I knew I had the kit to create a high-quality lighting design.
She adds: “The RGBW pixel tape created what we called ‘Laura Derns’. At the start of each post word limit scene, a moving line of various lengths travelled up the set wall to represent how many words each character had left in their day. The shelf lighting created various scales of space to support the scenes: domestic, outdoor, cityscape. The shelf and grid LEDs animated the wall, whilst options created the various countdowns needed throughout the piece. Sam Ohlsson (our Programmer) and Jess Brigham (our Assistant LD) did an amazing job to create and support this visual language. The rig also gave the flexibility we needed to solidify the blocking once the performers were on stage and in the space”.
As with any show that transfers to a West End stage, there are often certain obstacles that a designer needs to overcome; with this play being no exception. Aideen explains: “The front-of-house positions at the Harold Pinter Theatre are somewhat limited, being either quite flat or steep. As there was a gauze in front of the set wall, I really wanted to avoid hitting it with any front light. Andy Taylor (our Production Electrician) along with Jack and Ryan at the Pinter did a great job helping to create some much-needed new positions. We used both Encores and Diablos here; the latter being smaller and neater with a similar output. This meant we could fit more units into this valuable space to light the performers and reduce the impact on the gauze”.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons ended its critically-acclaimed West End run last month, before embarking on a short tour to Manchester and Brighton.
Aideen concludes: “A huge thanks to WL for being so supportive and providing all the fixtures we needed to make the design flourish within our budget and tight schedule”.
Photo courtesy of Johan Persson.