Heather Litteer gives off the impression of a faded starlet. She speaks of her past with bitter nostalgia, recollections that are simultaneously loving and sharp. Purity skipped a generation, so while mother is a church-going, God-fearing Southern Belle, Heather escapes to New York for cock sucking on TV, dancing in go-go bars and lesbian junkie films. Lemonade is her attempt to turn the bitterness of her life into something else. But it’s flat, low budget and runs the risk of becoming dry.
There’s an interesting dynamic between Heather and her mother – a reticent reverence for the woman that guides her hand inadvertently in all that she does. Heather calls momma her ‘Steel Magnolia’ and phones her often with soft, placating tones. Some of these conversations are touching, or poisonous, but either way emotional; others are shallow, tepid and unconvincing. It’s a theme that permeates throughout the whole production.
Despite the questionable writing and scene choices that all too often do not conform to a narrative arc, Heather holds a commanding presence. She breaks the fourth wall freely, as if it beneath her to conceive of anything else. She’s right too, the confidence she oozes throughout the show instils a sense of confidence in the monologue. Even when her positivity fades, when she becomes sick of the acting grind and tired of the same, pigeon-holed prostitution parts, she makes herself available. Each depiction of the subsequent ‘job’ has colour, albeit mainly shades of red.
Lemonade ends in a confused mess. It boils over too fasts and spills out of the frying pan all over the place. Heather needs to let the climaxes breathe, allow the audience to process and fill in the blanks. This is a poor, mismatched decision that tarnishes the preparation work put in to bring the tale to such a point. It feels rushed – despite remaining defiant, Heather loses her spark and subsequently her connection with the audience. In many ways, the hot mess ending sums up the protagonist’s life, but does not leave a satisfactory taste in the mouth. This ending is lemons, not lemonade.
Lemonade plays Assembly Rooms until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.