Apologia

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Stockard Channing brings her acting chops to bear on this formulaic dinner party play

Director Jamie Lloyd used to be an almost permanent fixture at Trafalgar Studios, volleying out bloody, bold, brilliant reinventions of classic plays aimed squarely at a younger audience.

His revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s second play ‘Apologia’ feels like an incongrously middle aged return, with only a pinch of his usual stylistic pizzazz (a splash of blood and a few thrilling shards of rock playing out around the interval).

This revival boasts a bigger-name cast than the original 2009 Bush production, foremost Broadway heavyweight – and the onetime Rizzo from ‘Grease’ – Stockard Channing, as formidable art historian Kristin, who is hosting a dinner party (possibly the most overused set-up for a play ever). Invited are her two sons Peter and Simon (both Joseph Millson – strangely ungimmicky), and their partners: Trudi (Laura Carmichael), an incandescently annoying American Christian; and Claire {Freema Agyeman], a smart but vulgar soap star – plus Hugh (Desmond Barrit), Kristin’s gay best friend, who makes gay best friend style wisecracks the from the sides.

Being a play set at a dinner party they all end up screaming at each other, as simmering resentments come to a head thanks to Kristin’s new memoir, which fails to make any mention of either of her sons.

‘Apologia’ attempts to tie Kristin’s apparent failings as a parent – and indeed, human being – to her unwavering belief in her fiercely feminist '60s ideas, which she's simply unable to set aside. Something about it just doesn’t hit home though: Channing’s performance is full of pain and intelligence and she delivers a fierce, alluring speech on the power of humanism to Trudi, but the writing doesn’t offer really offer enough to grab on – Kristin never really seems remotely as ideological as everyone suggests she is.

The contrivance of the dinner party set up is wearying (did I mention I'm bored of plays about dinner parties), and despite bright performances from the cast, the supporting characters are grating and cartoonish, especially the vacuous Trudi. ‘Apologia’ does, however, find a sweet spot in the otherworldly central scene win which Kristin is confronted by Simon, who tells her a quiet, devastating story from his childhood.

It’s a solid production from an director who always entertains, but it’s not much of an apologia for the play itself.

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