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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


By Steve Cooke

Yet another stunning production at HOME Manchester was the spellbinding The Lemon Table; Ian McDiarmid’s solo show, based on his own adaptation of two quite different Julian Barnes pieces from his short story collection The Lemon Table.

The pieces have the connecting theme of ageing and death. The lemon being a symbol of death in Chinese culture, and the lemon table where it is permitted to talk about death.

Directed by Michael Grandage and Titas Holder, both stories take place on a simple setting, from designer Frankie Bradshaw, of a long table with two chairs in front of a black curtain. Ella Wahlström's sound design uses sound effects and music sparsely and subtly to enhance certain moments, and Paule Constable also effectively keeps her lighting design simple and subtle.

The production focuses strongly on Ian McDiarmid's remarkable performance, creating two characters that seem physically very different, his outstanding vocal technique allowing him mesmerically to fill the theatre with sharp clarity for an intense but highly engaging seventy minutes.

Ian McDiarmid is a 77 years-old Scottish actor and director of stage and screen, probably best known for portraying Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars film series and his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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