Apologia

Previewed 29 July 2017, Opened 3 August 2017, Closed 18 November 2017 at the Trafalgar Studios in London

Jamie Lloyd's production of Alexi Kaye Campbell's play Apologia in London starring Stockard Channing

Kristin Miller is a firebrand liberal matriarch and eminent art historian. But then a birthday gathering that should be a cause for celebration brings cracks in her family relationships to the surface with the recent publication of her memoir which detail a background of left-wing Sixties politics, and European intellectual bohemia, but fails to mention her children. When her son decides to challenge her version of their lives, the cost of her devotion to art and to her principles starts to emerge. A witty, topical and passionate play about generations, secrets, and warring perspectives.

The cast features Stockard Channing as 'Kristin Miller' along with Freema Agyeman as 'Claire', Desmond Barrit as 'Hugh', Laura Carmichael as 'Trudi' and Joseph Millson as 'Peter' and 'Simon'. Directed by Jamie Lloyd - this is a completely new staging of Alexi Kaye Campbell's 2009 play which was first seen in London at the Bush Theatre.

When this production opened here at the Trafalgar Studios in August 2017, Ann Treneman in the Times said that "it is an eviscerating and funny, if at times wordy, look at whether women like Kristin, who put career before children, were pioneers or failures." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper thought that "this is a rather programmatic play that gives everyone their moment of revelation... Stockard Channing's performance is magnificent as we see the monstrosities give way to the tearful grief of fully recognising the price that has been paid and the stand she was forced to make." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented how both "political and family drama merge in a play that offers a passionate defence of the crusading fervour of the 60s... Jamie Lloyd’s production is strongly cast all round." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail highlighted that, although "the first-half dialogue crackles... energy levels and the urgency of the writing drop in a second half" and "the show ends more in a dribble than a bang." Neil Norman in the Daily Express praised how the play "is given a fresh coat of paint by stinging dialogue and sparky performances... director Jamie Lloyd delivers a satisfyingly bumpy ride and it is hard to take your eyes off Stockard Channing." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times described how "Alexi Kaye Campbell has written a corker of a central role — a woman committed to her work and her political ideals to the point of almost entirely ignoring her family... ironically the structure of the play bears out the accusations levelled at the character... Both play and production are less challenging, less meaty than they appear." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph wrote that, "if, as tables are turned, this absorbing, finely acted evening leaves a pronounced taste of standard-issue "progressive" seasoning in the mouth, there's still plenty enough to chew on before that." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard noted that "in focusing on a calamitous dinner party, it exploits an overworked theatrical trope and risks using characters as mouthpieces. But this revival has a satisfying vividness. With Stockard Channing at the heart of all its richest moments, it has plenty of bite and some big laughs."

Alexi Kaye Campbell's West End credits include Pride at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013. Stockard Channing's London theatre credits include John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation at the Royal Court Theatre in 1992. Desmond Barrit's theatre credits include the role of 'Judge Omar Gaffney' in Lindsay Posner's revival of Mary Chase's comedy Harvey at the Haymarket Theatre in 2015 and the role of 'Hector' in Nicholas Hytner's production of Alan Bennett's play The History Boys at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2007. Joseph Millson's West End credits include Richard Eyre's production of Ian Kelly's comedy Mr Foote's Other Leg at the Haymarket Theatre in 2016; the role of 'Prince Charming' in Fiona Laird's production of Stephen Fry's pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic Theatre in 2007. His London credits for the Royal Shakespeare Company include the role of 'Benedict' in Marianne Elliott's revival of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at the Novello Theatre in 2006; and, as part of the 2005 Spanish Golden Age Season at the Playhouse Theatre - Mike Alfreds' revival of Miguel de Cervantes' comedy Pedro, The Great Pretender; Nancy Meckler's revival of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz's play House Of Desires; and Laurence Boswell's revival of Lope de Vega's comedy The Dog In The Manger.

"Napoleon is said to have observed that if you want to understand a man, look at the world when he was 20. The heroine of Alexi Kaye Campbell's gripping, thoughtprovoking and combative play, first seen in 2009, is Kristin, whose age isn't given, but must have been 20 in about 1970. And, boy, does she want you to know it. A glamorous and successful art historian, she's a woman shaped entirely by the 1960s, down to her very last tiny prejudice... I don't know if Channing meant to make Kristin so intensely unlikeable, but she certainly succeeds. Towards the end, Campbell attempts a rather lumbering rehabilitation, or 'apologia', a defence of the old monster, via the unwieldy and unlikely symbol of an African tribal mask. It didn't work for me, an unconvincing rebalancing sequence that sought to portray Kristin as some kind of progressive martyr. Nevertheless, Apologia is always strongly acted, often funny and with some memorably acerbic one-liners, and it's given the usual dynamic direction by Jamie Lloyd." The Sunday Times

"The suggestion is that, as a political activist and pioneering art critic, she had to sever domestic ties and focus on the bigger picture... Kristin's commitment has come at a cost to herself as well as her sons. Afraid of intimacy, she is gratuitously vile to both men's girlfriends, Trudi and Claire, and friendly only to her camp neighbour Hugh. Channing admirably refuses to sentimentalise her character (at least until the end), but her impassive expression and dry monotone become wearing. The family reunion is welltrodden dramatic territory and Campbell does not avoid its cliches. The bitter recriminations are as predictable as the tentative reconciliation. On the credit side he writes some splendidly mordant lines and one deeply unsettling scene in which Kristen's younger son, Simon, relates how her neglect left him vulnerable to a paedophile. An unexpected bonus of Jamie Lloyd's pleasingly restrained production is the opportunity it affords Laura Carmichael to lay the ghost of Downton Abbey's Lady Edith Crawley. As an American physiotherapist with an unapologetic Christian faith, she is funny, touching and true." The Sunday Express

"In Alexi Kaye Campbell's biliously funny family drama, directed by Jamie Lloyd, Stockard Channing is Kristin, an art historian and political firebrand of the 1960s, throwing a turbulent get-together to celebrate her birthday. Scornful of inferior intellects and exasperated by her two sons' life choices, she's an unnerving hostess who can turn refilling a glass into a devastating gesture of disdain. 'Still raping the Third World?' she acidly enquires of Peter, a banker who appals his socialist mother further by arriving with an American, platitude-spouting Christian girlfriend. Kristin's other boy, Simon is a depressive, failed writer, unhappily shacked up with a glossy soap actress. Kristin's gay old activist friend Hugh completes the guest list for a less than swinging party, at which festering grievances rise and Kristin stands accused of failure as a mother. The conflict throws up debates about art, faith, feminism, consumerism and idealism, and the stinging dialogue and bare-knuckle acting make this a gripping bout of savage emotional in-fighting. Kristin takes a beating, but Channing triumphs, portraying her with subtlety, poignance and excoriating wit." The Metro

Apologia in London at the Trafalgar Studio 1 previewed from 29 July 2017, opened on 3 August 2017 and closed on 18 November 2017