Apologia by British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell is a work that will undoubtedly resonant with Baby Boomers and early Generation X’ers. It examines such things as shifting attitudes over the decades and the impact of one generation’s achievements on the next.
The embodiment of the 1960’s hippy culture is the central character Kristin, who, after having made many personal sacrifices in the name of humanist principle and fought her way towards the feminist movement of the 1970’s, now finds herself in the complacent 21st century.
We join her on her birthday and times should be joyous – she is, after all, a successful art critic of some note and, did I mention, it is her birthday. However, her two sons are products of their generation and have not seen the trenches of any movement radical or otherwise. Her son, Peter, is a banker who is engaged to an American Christian while her other son, Simon, is engaged to a soap actress who spends money in the fashion of water plunging down a drain.
This theme of changes in generational attitudes is one that seems to interest Campbell as it appears in his debut play, The Pride, as well: "Both plays are about how the importance and the imperative of certain rights that were fought for in the 1960s have somehow been forgotten and commodified," he says. "Issues such as gay rights or feminism have been hijacked by capitalist markets and turned into lifestyle choices, to the extent that you forget what they are really about. So I was interested in exploring this illusion of a won battle; of when you get to the core of what defines you – whether you are black or gay or a woman – it’s often not true that things have actually changed."
The play also examines the question: What does it take to be a good parent? or, more particularly, a good mother while still striving to achieve self fulfilment. Campbell is very interested in the responsibilities that come with being a parent. "I’m very close to both my parents but I also come from a broken family," he says. "And although I love kids, I also know I would never want to have children until I knew I could be a good parent."
Campbell was an actor for 18 years before turning to playwriting, and, as we know, most good playwrights (like most good novelists) write about what they know and what informs them as individuals. Campbell grew up under the Greek military dictatorship in the late 1960s/early 1970s and it is this personal experience with fascism that has influenced his opinions about how ideologies function.
"One thing that shaped Apologia is the idea that, whenever things get frightening, be it the economy today in this country, for example, people revert to more extremist ideas rather than rationally taking responsibility for what’s happened," he says. "I find this knee-jerk move towards the far right very worrying. And for someone like Kristin, a humanist atheist who’s spent her life fighting religious and political extremism, it’s horrifying."
Apologia: Venue: the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio Season dates: 18 February to 2 April, 2011 Tickets: From $61.10 (Under 30s $30) Booking details: The MTC Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au, the Arts Centre 1300 182 183 or theartscentre.com.au