Mark Ludmon reviews Unlikely Productions’ show The Apologists at Omnibus Theatre in Clapham, London
Omnibus Theatre, London
Every day, public figures are called out for comments considered to be offensive, insensitive or inappropriate. Some stick to the maxim to “never apologise, never explain”, others try to defuse by issuing a carefully worded apology – often without success. In The Apologists, three different women attempt to navigate the politics of apologies as they struggle with their own personal crises.
Each of the three self-contained monologues approaches this topical subject from a different angle, showing that sorry really is the hardest word. The fundamental challenge of a formal apology is tackled head-on in the first by Iskandar Sharazuddin, in which Louise, the first female chief executive of the NHS, fights to save her career after making a racist comment in a moment of panic. She sees her dilemma as exposing the conflict between the public and the private, part of her anxiety about juggling her role as a parent with her high-profile job. As she rails about decades of achievement being destroyed in a matter of seconds, she seems to move towards what might be a more positive resolution but is it more about saving her skin than being genuinely remorseful?
Remorse is at the heart of Cordelia O’Neill’s monologue, which finds another women at a critical moment in her private and personal life. Holly is a journalist and influencer, projecting a bitchy facade of glamour and glitz that masks intense unhappiness and a sense of failure. When her review of a chintzy B&B appears to propel someone to suicide, she finally faces up to the emptiness of her life and the damage that her writing has inflicted on other people – an important message for any critic. In contrast to Louise, she wants to apologise but cannot find an adequate way of doing it.
In the last and most disturbing of the monologues, Sienna has nothing to apologise for but she is struggling with a past trauma that has never been resolved due to the mistakes of others. As her boss deals with a formal apology for errors made by the aid agency that they work for, Sienna reveals the pain that comes from never getting an apology, let alone the support she needs.
In three excellent performances, Gabrielle Scawthorn transforms from a power-dressed chief executive to a sharp-tongued journalist to a traumatised aid worker. Directed by Jane Moriarty, the monologues peel away the layers of these different characters with precision, adding touches of humour to the often intense drama. While these three stories expose how there is no such thing as a simple apology, they show there are still compelling reasons to keep on trying.
Running at the Omnibus Theatre until 8 March 2020BOOK TICKETS TO THE APOLOGISTS