Apologia / Oh Well Never Mind Bye
Various venues
June / July, 2009

I was far less impressed by Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride than most of my colleagues, but I am if anything keener than most on his Apologia.  It’s a conventional enough premise, and its final act is rather programmatic in engineering a succession of duologue scenes, but the language and characterisation are beautifully done.  In the central role, Paola Dionisotti deploys that marvellous combination of which she is such a consummate mistress: alternating the appearance of scattiness with a fiercely incisive way of interrogating other characters.  Dionisotti is, I think, destined to be the actress of her generation most wrongfully overlooked by our national honours system: she deserves to become Dame Paola at some point, but alas, she won’t.  And despite that clunky final phase, I came out of the Bush saying that it would be a good year if I saw a better new play.  (It is indeed a good year; I write this column a couple of hours after having seen Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, whose reviews will be reprinted next issue.)

Steven Lally’s Oh Well Never Mind Bye also deserved more than the pair of reviews it received.  I manage to visit the Union Theatre far more seldom than I would like, but am immensely glad that this was one of those too rare occasions.  the play was publicised as being “about” the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, but as both Michael Billington and Andrew Haydon say, it is more truly an indictment of contemporary news journalism, at both an operational and a cultural level. I have little to add to their remarks, except to single out for praise Benjamin Peters’ performance as news editor James.  I think I noticed one misjudged moment, which felt as if it had been imposed rather than growing out of Peters’ own take on the character; for the far greater part, he gave an excellent rendition as the cold kind of tyrant – not a sadist or an impassioned maniac, but a stressed functionary.  I would hate to be on the receiving end of bile such as James’s.

Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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