Review: The Apologists (Unlikely Productions)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jan 20 – 31, 2021
Playwrights: Lucinda Burnett (New Universe), Cordelia O’Neill (Seven, The Sweetest Hour), Iskandar Sharazuddin (Excuses)
Director: Jane Moriarty
Cast: Gabrielle Scawthorn
Images by Steve Gregson

Theatre review
Comprised of three monologues, each one utilising the concept of an apology as starting point, the appropriately titled The Apologists deals not only with personal turmoil that accompanies any event that necessitates an admission of guilt, but also the public aspects to which these difficult situations pertain.

In Iskandar Sharazuddin’s Excuses, it is the Chief Executive of the UK’s National Health Service, who takes a very public tumble. Cordelia O’Neill’s Seven, The Sweetest Hour involves a social media influencer whose self-obsession leads to an innocent victim paying the ultimate price. New Universe by Lucinda Burnett talks about the revelations of an NGO overlooking sexual abuse taking place where aid is meant to be implemented.

Although relatively short in length, each of the pieces are intricately conceived, and exhaustively explored. They involve high stakes and familiar situations, delving deep into characters beyond the pithy news headlines their stories would no doubt inspire, on millions of mobile scrolls.

The incomparable Gabrielle Scawthorn performs three separate roles, eschewing all things superficial, so that we can access the heart of each matter expeditiously. The unambiguity of her delivery style, ensures that our immersion into these narratives are gripping and powerful. Scawthorn’s ability to elicit empathy for the personalities we meet, is quite extraordinary, and a welcome antidote for these times of pervasive and succumbing apathy.

Jane Moriarty’s direction is crisp and concise, always able to locate a purpose, and drive home a point for each moment of the show. Lights by Saul Valiunas and sound by Rob Donnelly-Jackson, offer uncomplicated solutions to enhance dramatic effect at crucial junctures, of this otherwise barebones presentation.

It is easy to say sorry, and get away with it. We see organisations, big and small, express remorse over countless things on countless occasions, but rarely do we see any structural changes that will ensure improvements. Too often we chastise individuals, wanting them to be served their just desserts, but in the process, we neglect the machinations of systems that have facilitated these misdeeds. History is then allowed to keep repeating, which reduces apologies to being essentially meaningless.

www.unlikelyproductions.co.uk