Remarkably, for an age where the ‘art of the apology’ is given almost equal attention to what’s being apologised for, very little dramatic consideration has been given to the topic. Indeed, in our post-#MeToo world where every action and every mistake are recorded and catalogued and shared, its surprising that more writers haven’t flocked to this salacious subject matter. Fortunately, in Unlikely Productions’ The Apologists, a trio of monologues all centred around apologies, this itch is very much scratched: the work presented is (mostly) thorough, thought-provoking and delivered flawlessly.
At their core, all three monologues address a crucial question: is saying “sorry” ever good enough? In Excuses by Iskandar Sharazuddin: is a simple “sorry” enough to excuse an executive for a thoughtless comment? In Seven, The Sweetest Hour by Cordelia O’Neill: does apologising actually ever mitigate the guilt we feel? And in New Universe by Lucinda Burnett: how much can we ever move on from an apology? For the first two pieces, the questions posed are answered with beautiful sensitivity and introspective depth, grounded in flawed but utterly relatable characters. Moreover, their juxtaposition allows for greater thematic reach, making the two performances greater than the sum of their parts. Gabrielle Scawthorn, the performer of all three monologues, balances the gravity of the depicted scenarios with the humour of the characters masterfully, guiding the audience through the moral minefield whilst being utterly enthralling whilst doing so. Reinforced by Jan Moriarty’s expert direction, the pair get the very much out of these monologues, creating a production that is at times overwhelming, but always heart-breaking.
Unfortunately, the third breaks this streak, offering a monologue that is just… boring? Indeed, whilst the first two assume the point-of-view of the morally ambiguous apologiser, New Universe – in an attempt to “flip our perspective” – assumes the position of the apologised-to. Consequently, although this central character does still have the inner turmoil of having to process an apology, she doesn’t evoke the same interest due to being painted as seemingly blameless. In comparison to how the core characters of the previous two monologues wrestle with their sense of justice when apologising, New Universe is instead quite one-note, as it rather soap-boxy professes it’s morally superiority; it’s like being served two fantastic courses, and then being served something still edible, but far less delicious. Scawthorn and Moriarty still imbue the monologue with thoughtfulness and verve, but it feels less worthwhile following on from the initial two performances. Nevertheless, the talent on display in The Apologists is palpable, offering what is still mostly a mature and introspective look at the impact of apologising in modern society. And, although it falters at the final hurdle, when the quality of performance and the depth of the thematic exploration is to this level, the production has nothing to apologise for.
The Apologists is playing at the Omnibus Theatre until 8 March 2020. For more information and tickets, please see the Omnibus website.