The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes.

Salisbury Playhouse’s second production since reopening is the world premiere of the one-man production The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes. Set around and on a dining table with two chairs one placed at either end. Ian McDiarmid delivers the production in two sections Vigilance followed by Silence. These are just two stories chosen out of the possible eleven. Taken from the best selling novel The Lemon Table.

We meet the unhappy, disgruntled concertgoer during Vigilance. Annoyed by every movement, noise, cough or irritation of a mobile phone ringing during the performance. After years of sitting in dark auditoriums, he has heard pretty much every annoying distraction there is and his patience has been completely severed.

Returning home he bemoans to partner, Andrew whom by the response he received has lost his patience listening to him as well. Although we discover listening to his complaints isn’t the only thing he has lost patience with.

There’s a certain amount of empathy towards the character as there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to listen to or watch a performance and someone is completely oblivious that their behaviour is causing a disruption. Please do turn off your phones.

Silence, the second part explained through the eyes of a composer, longing for silence to help clear his mind. It’s during this performance the meaning behind The Lemon Table is explained and you become to understand its importance.

McDiarmid delivers both stories with strong compassion and the incredible ability to step inside the characters becoming at one with each of them. A skill I greatly admire. Monologue based performances are one of my favourite genres and since studying Talking Heads by Alan Bennett for my A levels it has become my chosen private listening therapy.

The precision and heartfelt performance flowed throughout the evening. Leaving me wanting to hear more about their lives as both tales came to an end. Sharing segments of a character’s world leaves many unanswered questions. Where Art is reflecting the world around us, as we join others during parts of theirs and our life journey and rarely staying to the end.

Hopefully, this will be the start of The Lemon Table monologues where the other nine will be produced and performed in the future. Directors Micheal Grandage and Titas Halder have set a high precedent for anyone who would take on the task to direct the next ones.

Playing at the Salisbury Playhouse until 23rd October 2021. Please use the link below for further details.

Five Stars.

Photo credits Marc Brenner


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