It wasn’t until after the show was over that I learned Zeal Queensland has been performing The Apology for years. They’ve spent most of their time touring the play through schools, delivering their nuanced narrative about bullying to teens across the state. What shocked me most about this tidbit wasn’t the play’s preexisting success, but rather just how well they’d adapted it to fit the Boggo Road Gaol space. Indeed, the performance feels entirely crafted for the bottom floor atrium and cells—the blocking is masterful, and the acoustics of the space are gorgeous for both the vocals and the live guitar work. In short, despite not being written for the Gaol, The Apology features the best use of space I’ve seen in Anywhere so far.
The playwright, Stefo Nantsou, who was present at last night’s staging, described this temporary home for the piece as “a dream come true”. And I suppose this energy channeled through the whole team—launching them into a state of mind that bred the energy that made The Apology particularly special this time round.
And what a special play it is, featuring a whopping eighteen characters—and only two actors. There’s a rhythm to this performance as the pair switch through characters with a flick of a hat, a limp of a leg, a curve of an eyebrow. So often I was watching in awe, trying to catch the pair out as they commanded the massive three-storey space—and only a couple times did I notice any inconsistencies, all of them minor at most. Other than these few errors, the switches between characters, the way the actors would speak to the same blank space, or with their backs to each other to represent opposite sides of a bus—it was seamless. The whole thing had the energy of a well-edited film (think PT Anderson or Tarantino)—each cut a blur rather than a snap, a kinetic pulse through the space that the actors inhabit.
At an hour The Apology is the longest show I’ve seen in Anywhere so far. And it earns its length, playing out a full character’s arc, and building depth where a shorter play couldn’t. Even when I got worried that the show was gonna spill its meaning to me directly—which it comes dangerously close to doing—it manages to frame its core question in a way that doesn’t feel too heavy-handed, though does perhaps come across as crafted for the script’s usual highschool-aged target audience.
That said, any criticism I lay out against The Apology is so minor in the scheme of things. Every aspect of this play is just about nailed down, tightened, and warm. The fact that two men can fill such a large space with just their physicality and their voices should be lauded. It’s a performance that alone should justify the preservation of Boggo Road Gaol, because it’s now gonna have to be known now by each subsequent audience of each subsequent staging—The Apology may never be this special again.