by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London to 18 November 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0870 060 6632.
Review: William Russell 8 August
Stockard Channing on top form
Stockard Channing of the West Wing and Rizzo fame is not the only reason for seeing this play – she has very strong support from the rest of the cast – but she delivers a lesson in how to devastate the landscape which Crawford and even more so Davis would envy. The play is one of those family affairs with the matriarch from hell destroying all who cross her path. It was seen a few years back at the Bush and some changes have been made to accommodate the fact that Channing is American, but they hardly matter. She plays Kristin, an art historian who has just published a memoir, the Apologia of the title, but in it there is no mention of her children who are understandably upset. Kristin’s sons, Peter and Simon, went to live with their father when the marriage broke up and have never really forgiven her for not fighting to keep them.
Peter is a businessman, the sort of wheeler dealer international traveller his mother despises, who turns up to celebrate her birthday with his new American girlfriend, Trudi, played by Laura Carmichael, a Christian oozing good will to all. Simon, who does not appear for some time, is a fragile guy whose girlfriend, Claire, a soap actress on the way up, arrives alone bearing gifts even more unwanted than the horrible native mask Trudi has brought. The battle that commences is very funny, with Carmichael a revelation as Trudi, and Freema Agyeman a delight as the eye on the main chance Claire.
On the sidelines, just to add to the pleasure of this ill assorted company, is Desmond Barrit as an aged gay neighbour forever dropping bon mots. As for Peter and Simon, since they do not appear together, Joseph Millson does a really clever double which distinguishes them perfectly.
In Act Two the jokes virtually dry up and it all turns serious as Kristin has to face up to the mess she made of her children’s lives. Jamie Lloyd has directed with a sure hand and the play works both as a vehicle for Ms Channing and for the other actors to display their skills with Carmichael in particular escaping the curse of Downton. There is also one joke in Act One which has been enhanced by time, but no spoilers. Apologia is a good night out, talk about it afterwards, well made play and ought to be impossible to get into.
Kristin: Stockard Channing.
Claire: Freema Agyeman.
Hugh: Desmond Barrit.
Trudi: Laura Carmichael.
Peter/Simon: Joseph Millson.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Set & Costume Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark.
Sound Designer: Ben & Max Ringham.
Hair & Wig Designer: Richard Mawbey.