Saturday October 21, 2017 @ Trafalgar Studios
Cast: Stockard Channing, Joseph Millson, Laura Carmichael, Isaura Barbe-Brown (u/s), Desmond Barrit
Apologia follows the disjointed lives of writer Kristen Miller (Stockard Channing) and her two sons (both Joseph Millson) on the eve of Kristen’s birthday. Unintentionally so, the family proceed to unravel their many skeletons in the closet over the course of a very long night. I really loved this play, not only because I love a good family drama but also because of the exceptional cast that it showcases. The name of the play may leave some questions unanswered, but once you discover the connotations of the word, it breaks the fourth-wall in suggesting very early on what the play is, and you soon discover it is aptly suited.
From the opening scene in which Kristen attempts to cook in a slowly breaking oven we get a feel of the tone playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell is setting. But then it proceeds to take us in a different direction and profoundly so. The heart of the play comes from Kristen’s relationship with her sons. We come to learn of their estrangement as the play progresses and tensions run high. It’s clear from the start that Kristen’s son Simon still holds a grudge but remains in denial of not knowing the full story of the past. We feel sorry for the relatable and human Kristen as at the end of her argument she exclaims “You’ve never asked how I feel”. A powerful and resonant moment in the play that was performed to perfection. It was an honour and a privilege to be seeing this multi-award winning star do her thing.
The rest of the cast are also one of a kind. Laura Carmichael as Simon’s Christian fiancée is the cause of some very heated arguments, although Carmichael’s strength makes us love her anyway. The brilliantly camp Desmond Barrit provides equally recurring jolts of humour and a voice of reason as Kristen’s friend Hugh. The hardest task is asked of both Channing and Millson. Millson plays both sons, each of which is extremely defined and unique. The scene in which Kristen and her second son Peter make their own discoveries about each other’s past is so tense you could hear a pin drop. Millson is so invested you’ll blink twice to realise it is the same actor. But it’s not all doom and gloom; there are brilliant moments of farce, most memorably when Kristen receives a surprising phone call intended for Claire (the girlfriend of Kristen’s second son, played by fantastic understudy Isaura Barbe-Brown), as well as the spilling of wine on a £3,000 dress – the outcome of which rightfully leaves the audience in stiches.
The star of the show is Channing without a doubt. She is such a powerful actress, there are moments in the show in which she brings such subtly to her performance in the way of conveying so much in the matter of a few seconds – this calibre of acting reminds me why I love live theatre in the first place. Being so close to the stage as I was, I became so invested in the character because Channing poured her heart and soul into it. She was funny, passionate and elevated the whole atmosphere of the auditorium. A true world class performer and worthy of her inevitable standing ovation.
It’s rare for a play at least, that I want to revisit it so soon, but as last night came to a close with its emotional and poignant ending, I wanted to continue watching these people’s lives to see what would happen next. I might have to go back before its run is finished, if just for Channing’s electric performance.
Apologia runs at Trafalgar Studios through November 18. My Blog: www.stageytheatrelife.wordpress.com