Making the most of every word

Sophie Graham and Alex Martyn take on a verbal challenge in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Sophie Graham and Alex Martyn take on a verbal challenge in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Having to think about each word you say or risk breaching a draconian word limit law raises some interesting questions in Arcade Theatre’s latest production. Rebecca Fox talks to the actors faced with the challenge.

Not only do Sophie Graham and Alex Martyn have to restrict their words in their latest production but they also need to do it in a British accent.

So the production of Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Manchester playwright and screenwriter Sam Steiner comes with multiple challenges for the young actors.

The story is of Bernadette and Oliver, who first meet in a cat cemetery, move in together, grapple with differing views on their work and then get into more debate when the government introduces a draconian hush law giving everyone a daily limit of just 140 words each.

This requires the pair to come up with ways to communicate within the law.

It was first performed in the United Kingdom in 2015, before going to the National Student Drama Festival where it won three awards, including judges' commendations for writing and direction.

The production then had a sellout run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

It is Graham's first production for Arcade Theatre while Martyn has appeared in four of its shows.

But he says this one is different. He plays Oliver, a protest leader and renegade-type character, quite different from his own personality.

''He's brash and excitable. He's a really different character to what I've played before.

''I'm more subdued and polite. Oliver is very much the opposite but its always fun to play someone quite different to who you are.''

Added to that is the need for a British accent.

While Martyn, who is accomplished at improvisation comedy, has done ''weird regional'' accents before, it is the first time trying on a London accent.

''All my life I've tried out different accents, more in a humorous way but this one you have to train your

mouth, put your tongue in a different place.

''It's very easy to slip back into a Kiwi accent. The hardest thing is to be consistent.''

They have had help to get it right from accent coach Hilary Norris.

''It is so satisfying when you say something perfectly.''

Graham, who graduated from the University of Otago's theatre programme this year, agrees saying practice and continually repeating it helps.

''You realise when you sound weird. You have to work on the vowels and be quite vigilant about it.''

The relationship between Bernadette, a divorce lawyer from a working class background who has worked hard to get where she is, and Oliver is quite intense.

''They are in quite an intense emotional place. Bernadette is quite realistic and sees the world as it is while her partner sees the world as how it should be.''

Added to that is the non-linear storyline.

''It jumps all over the place rather than a straight storyline, which is quite challenging.''

The topics around free speech are very topical and parallel what is happening today, she says.

Martyn, who is also an Otago theatre graduate, is enjoying discovering how the relationship between the pair fluctuates and changes over the play.

''He's alway pushing in the relationship.''

Martyn also loves working with Arcade director Alex Wilson.

''He's very collaborative. You are in safe hands with what he does.''

To see

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
Regent Theatre, Dunedin
Saturday to November 23, 7pm.

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