REVIEW: Apologia ★★★★★ – Trafalgar Studios

“…darkly witty and intensely gripping, with stark relevance to modern society”


West End Theatre Guide



Apologia is a play by Alexi Kaye Campbell telling the story of the liberal revolutionary firebrand and art historian, Kristin Miller, who has just published her memoir, and as her birthday celebrations with one of her sons, Peter, his fiancée, Trudi, her other son’s girlfriend, Claire, and her old friend, Hugh, and a brief visit by her other son, Simon, take an unexpected turn when cracks begin to appear in the family’s relationships.

The play looks back to the 1960s, a time of change which shook the establishment and foundations all over the world. In the UK, for example, abortion and divorce rights were established, laws around gender and race equality were enacted, homosexual intercourse was decriminalised, and capital punishment and theatre censorship were abolished.   Whilst it was a time of social change and protest, Apologia gives a rare insight into the sacrifices made by the “flower power” protesters and makes a sharp contrast between that generation and later generations’ apparent ignorance of the idea of fighting for something for the greater good.

With Kristin’s lifetime focus being firmly set on changing the world (particularly for women) for generations to come, both her sons have grown up to feel neglected by their career-orientated mother. There is an interesting generational juxtaposition between Kristen and her sons: both sons are focused on themselves in an almost childlike, needy way and on the price they perceive they’ve paid for their unconventional upbringing, without seeming to realise the pain and sacrifice their mother suffered by choosing the path she did; Kristin is equally baffled by young people’s lack of empathy or belief in anything meaningful, in an age where things mean so little and where personal gain seems to be the dominant driver.

Kristin’s firm liberal and humanist beliefs have led to her developing prejudices on principle against certain beliefs, ideologies and groups of people. For example, her never-ending disapproval of Trudi’s American nationality and Christian religion is a source of much comedy throughout the play. This could be perceived as narrow-mindedness and inability to see alternative viewpoints but is more likely a product of fighting so fiercely for something so important and pure. She tells us that Apologia is a formal written defence of one’s opinions or conduct – and quickly emphasises that it is not an apology. Kristin’s character and familial situation perhaps echo that of anyone who is passionately devoted to a cause, and the ending is both touching and heart-breaking when, after a night of quarrels, she realises what she has lost personally through her steadfast pursuit of a better tomorrow for everyone.

Stockard Channing (Grease (film), The West Wing (TV), It’s Only A Play) starred as Kristin Miller and gave a stellar, powerfully commanding performance of Campbell’s smart and sharp dialogue. Desmond Barrit (The Rivals, Before I Leave, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) played Hugh, the wonderfully flamboyant and satirical fellow hippie protester. Freema Adyeman (Doctor Who (TV), Law & Order, Sense8 (TV), Laura Carmichael (Downtown Abbey (TV), The Maids, Uncle Vanya) and Joseph Millson (The Rover, Much Ado About Nothing, Love Never Dies) were excellent in the roles of Claire, Trudi and Peter/Simon.

Soutra Gilmour’s ingenious design of a framed stage mirrors the publishing of Kristin’s memoir, a picture of her work career and achievements, and the simple set gives the production a certain intensity, with no moving parts to distract. Jamie Lloyd’s razor-sharp direction, with added characteristic splash of darkness, is perfectly suited for this sophisticated play.

Apologia is darkly witty and intensely gripping, with stark relevance to modern society. Indeed, this powerful work offers a vast amount of thought-provoking wisdom to anyone who is willing to listen.

Apologia is showing at the Trafalgar Studios until 18th November (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Trafalgar Studios, read our guide.