Friday, 4 August 2017

REVIEW: Apologia at the Trafalgar Studios

The Trafalgar Studios in recent years has had a strong affiliation with the director Jamie Lloyd with powerful physicals productions of Dr Faustus and Richard III , but the strength of this latest production is in the spoken word, the pauses and reactions to it. For much of the play by Alexi Kaye Campbell, the protagonists are seated around the kitchen table in often tense exchanges that slowly reveal the family fault lines.

The central character is Kristin, an art historian who was an idealistic sixties liberated campaigner who passionately believed she could and did change the world but now carries the burden of that life heavily and faces the damage it did to her relationships. Stockard Channing , an American best known for her roles in Grease and West Wing , plays this mother as world weary, and detached from her sons. She is most animated reacting to the odd gifts her family give her for her birthday including a photograph from the sixties and spitting out barbed put downs. It is an awkward but engrossing performance.

Their is a fine supporting cast who create the drama , humour and pathos , each with their own theatrical high points .

Desmond Barrit is wonderful as her gay best friend from the sixties who knows and understands her best. He observes the family interaction and with caustic interventions supports her, bringing light relief to the family gathering .

Joseph Millson plays both her twin sons abandoned when young by Kristin and who have followed separate paths in reaction to their mother. Peter is a materialistic banker who appears to have found God but is curiously without emotion until he fInally loses his temper . Millson is at his best in the smaller role of Simon , the seriously damaged and depressed son who appears at the end of a Act 1. In the opening scene of act 2 he is spellbinding as he observes close up his mother and then retells hauntingly a definitive episode from his young life.

The brother's partners are played by Freema Agyeman as Claire , Simon's
partner and Laura Carmichael as Peter's American God loving and irritating partner, Trudi . They are the most animated characters who provide the counter views to Kristin . It is flaw of the play that why Claire has even come to the party without Simon is never properly explained but her presence does create one of the few moments of physical drama when wine is spilt .

This is a genre redefining kitchen sink drama updating from the sixties working class disillusioned young men form to a middle class female led setting. It is wordy and requires intense concentration as the arguments unfold but satisfying in the end as it provokes thought on the changes in society since those rebellious sixties and the damage one can inflict on friends and families by single minded pursuit of your own ideals.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

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