The Apologists

Iskandar Sharazuddin, Cordelia O’Neill and Lucinda Burnett
Unlikely Productions
Omnibus Theatre

Gabrielle Scawthorn Credit: Steve Gregson
Gabrielle Scawthorn Credit: Steve Gregson
Gabrielle Scawthorn Credit: Steve Gregson

It takes talent to be a good apologist, to be able to justify an action or belief against today’s swift social media retribution. But the characters in the three monologues going by the overall title of The Apologists just haven't got that talent. Gabrielle Scawthorn gives an engaging performance as the three women, who mostly speak to us directly.

The Chief Executive of NHS England in Iskandar Sharazuddin’s Excuses stands at a lectern awkwardly reading a statement of regret at any offence or hurt she may have caused in speaking to a doctor at Homerton hospital where her injured daughter was being treated. Stepping aside from the media event, she claims the words she used, which have been widely interpreted as racist, couldn't be racist given she has written an important document against racism and, as a woman in an executive position, has herself been a minority subject to prejudice. Apart from which she was at the time distressed at the injury to her daughter.

The travel writer in Cordelia O’Neill’s Seven, the Sweetest Hour leads a reckless life of insensitivity in which apologies don't matter, or so she thinks, in her personal life with Brian using her for sex when it's convenient, despite him guiltily worrying that his wife might find out. And it shouldn't matter in her public life. After all, she has loads of followers on social media. Yet her writing drips with a certain cruelty, that includes a scathing review of a B&B which includes the line “my room was pink... it was like being swallowed by a vagina.” Although the piece often seems pitched as comedy, there are sobering consequences to something she does.

The strongest and most disturbing monologue is that of Lucinda Burnett’s New Universe. As the chief safeguarding officer for a leading charity working in Africa, Sienna stands by the lectern at a press conference where Alex the Chief Executive expresses his regret that the organisation failed to deal with the personnel sexually abusing women in exchange for the Charity helping them. The public bit over, he steps into the next room and, forgetting to turn off the mike, stupidly says with relief, “it's not as if I raped them.”

But it's more than his stupidity that bothers Sienna. She thinks that, as head of the organisation, it's not good enough for him to just blame others. What’s more, it has triggered for her a memory of her own sexual abuse by a staff member, whom the organisation failed to deal with. Although she never says so, we might also wonder the point of her own job as head of safeguarding when even she cannot get justice.

It’s PR stupid. A very modern form of apologist.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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