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Apologia – Trafalgar Studio 1 Until 18th November
Review By Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Hold a dinner party with a matriarch, a soap star, a gay best friend, a Christian girlfriend and two sons and what do you get – Apologia apparently. What’s the dictionary definition of Apologia? Either “an apology, as in defense or justification of a belief, idea”. Or “a work written as an explanation or justification of one’s motives, convictions, or acts.” We learn that this is indeed the ideology of a book written by the matriarch played by Stockard Channing.
Kristin Miller (Stockard Channing) is an eminent and successful art historian in her sixties. As a young mother she followed her politics and vocation, storming Parisian barricades and moving to Florence. Now she has written a book about her life – a book that fails to mention her two children, Peter and Simon (both played by Joseph Millson) So when her sons and their partners, Trudi (Laura Carmichael) and Claire (Freema Agyeman), gather at Kristin’s cottage in the countryside to celebrate her birthday, she finds herself ambushed by their very different versions of the past. Over the course of the evening, everyone must confront the cost of Kristin’s commitment to her passions.
This is Alexi Kaye Campbell’s third play, written and first performed in 2009 at the Bush Theatre. It has the opportunity to make the audience question their own pasts and life choices. This cast seizes the opportunity whole heartedly. Channing’s delivery of derisory and sometimes caustic comments with suitable comic timing is on point throughout and delivered with superb precision. It perfectly offsets Carmichael’s do-good simpering “Pollyanna” character – a role she plays beautifully. So much so when she does eventually snap the next morning after a very long and upsetting evening, it is joyously received by the audience.
Whilst there were two stereotypical characters played by Agyeman and Desmond Barrit who play soap star and gay best friend, I did enjoy them. Barrit in particular had some brilliant one-liners which he delivered with much mirth and panache often making the audience laugh out loud.
But the element which perplexed me was the fact that Joseph Millson played both sons? Whilst he did so undeniably well and with charisma. I didn’t feel it added to the play. Consequently when asked by my neighbor as to why the other son hadn’t taken a bow, I couldn’t explain why the same actor had played both roles? The characters were not identical twins, nor were they twins at all. So it just didn’t make sense to me? That said Millson gave each brother their own identity and you could feel the angst, particularly in the second act when the evening takes a dark turn.
The stunning set by Soutra Gilmour with its rustic atmospheric charm, was used to its full potential and the direction by Jamie Lloyd as usual did not disappoint. Directing this stellar cast to give a performance of a dire imploding dinner party that any normal dysfunctional family would be proud of.
The biggest question that this play raises is; what happens when we follow our passions and dreams to the detriment of others. Is there any way you can recover from that? The ending was powerful and the emotion portrayed by Channing felt real. There was definitely more than a tinge of the late great Bette Davis in Channing’s clipped delivery and performance.
A well written intelligent play which held my interest throughout and caused me to reflect on it long after the lights came up.
Book now to see it via the link at the top of this page or if you want more options click on this link HERE
Saturday 29th July – Saturday 18th November
Monday – Saturday at 7:30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm
Wednesday 13th September and Wednesday 4th October
www.atgtickets.com/trafalgarstudios / 0844 871 7632