Melbourne Theatre Company.
There's a certain kind of theatre that strives to give an impression of significance while leaving me feeling as if I've just watched a quadratic equation being solved. Apologia seems fresh from the mould: it observes the classical unities of action, space and time; derives its conflict from generational differences; injects references to another great artist to imbue itself with authority (in this case, Giotto); brings everyone together through a token situation (birthday party); features characters who represent strict ideological positions (US evangelism; 60s socialism; post-capitalist liberalism; self-obsessed consumerism); uses the excuse of celebratory drinking to allow these figures to 'loosen up' and have a bit of verbal biffo; lets the complex fissures between these discursive positions slide into individualistic, personal differences; presents a 'shocking' revelation or two that interrupts everything that's gone before; everyone has a bit of a moment and learns something about themselves and leaves in the morning.
Apologia has it all, but somehow flips the equation around. It's as if playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell has taken the form of the safe, middle-class family drama not as the desired end his script will try to reach, but as the starting point for something that will problematise, rather than resolve, the weltanschauung this kind of theatre posits. Then again, it could well be that it's the performances this production offers which make it more than the sum of its parts. On the page, the central figure of Kristin Miller could be read as a reactionary caricature of social idealism, but there's no way of watching Robyn Nevin in this role without being on her side all the way.