WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Trafalgar Studios
WHEN: 29/7 runs through 18/11
Apologia means a formal defence of a position or action and it’s a well-chosen title for this thoughtful reflection on whether acting for the greater good can excuse parental neglect.
- Read on for reasons including why Channing won a standing ovation at her 1st preview
Author Alexi Kaye Campbell’s second play is being revived here after first being performed at the Bush Theatre with a much less starry cast several years ago.
Set in 2009, Channing plays Kristin, an American art historian, who is throwing her own birthday party in her English countryside home and plays host to her sons, (both played by the ever reliable Joseph Millson, including one with mental health problems), their other halves (a charming Laura Carmichael as the religious Trudi and a superficial soap actress played by Freema Agyeman).
Kristin’s gay best friend Hugh (a fabulous Desmond Barritt) has many of the funniest lines and sums up the turn the party takes with the flourish: ‘Kristin is to diplomacy what I am to heterosexuality.’
Kristin and Hugh are activists who campaigned in the 60s for a better world, continue to do so now and despair at the lack of idealism that the younger members of the cast display.
During the party we learn that Kristin’s sons are unhappy that they do not feature in their mother’s latest book but also that they feel this reflects the importance, or lack of it, she places upon them.
It’s an interesting part for Channing to choose because she journeys from wise-cracking know-it-all to somewhere far less safe but much more interesting by the show’s close.
We’ve seen some really inventive productions from director Jamie Lloyd and this is much more conventional than we were expecting. In fact it is set entirely in Kristin’s kitchen in a box set that allows many of the cast to be seated while delivering their lines. Two rows behind us in the audience is former star of BBC’s Tenko series Stephanie Cole.
Channing is a performer so beloved that the standing ovation at the show’s conclusion was the only thing predictable about a play which never progressed in the ways expected.