Review: The Apology, ATP playRites festival

Stars David Beazely (Byron), David Patrick Flanning (Percy), Jamie Konchak (Mary), Ava Jane Markus (Claire), Graham Percy (Tom). Directed by Kate Newby. Written by Darrah Teitel.

Well. (*fans self*)
I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Lord Byron, so I knew I had to go see The Apology. And it didn’t disappoint. The first act was a slightly crazy, amorous yet philosophical romp, with an overabundance of sex. Actually, just make it an abundance, and not one I’d be complaining about. I appreciate that they didn’t shy away from the sexual content. Heck, it’d be hard to have any play about Byron & Shelley (particularly in 1814) that didn’t touch on the sexual antics.

In 1814, Byron, the Shelleys, and Mary’s sister, Claire Clairmont, took off for Switzerland, where they lived and created for several months. Most famously, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. (Also, historically, Polidori wrote ‘The Vampyre’, but that wasn’t dealt with here.) And at that time, the Shelleys were polyamorous.

I found the first act the most interesting and entertaining. The second act was shifted into the 21st century (which took a bit of adjustment after just previously being in 1814), though I suppose it was the chaos and drama of the domestic issues, like Byron demanding custody of his and Claire’s child, that I found a bit tiresome after awhile. For me, this act dragged. It was good, but act 1 was more engaging, had some good comedy and one-liners that garnered strong audience reaction. But all the fun crazy times have to end, and real life crashes in.

It was thought-provoking, and it’s a play that I’m still thinking about several hours afterwards, which means in my book that it was a good one. I wonder what Byron’s life, Shelley’s, Mary’s, and even Claire’s, would have been like without that time in Switzerland? Would Mary Shelley have become the writer she became? And Percy Shelley, would he have written some of the poetry he did without Byron’s influence?

I’ll leave you with poems by Byron and by Shelley, and I highly recommend reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (She wrote other books too, like ‘The Last Man’.)

My Soul is Dark (Byron – 1815)

My soul is dark — Oh !   Quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
‘T will flow, and cease to burn my brain. 

 But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
And ach’d in sleepless silence long;
And now ’tis doom’d to know the worst,
And break at once — or yield to song.

Ozymandias (Percy Shelley – 1817)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.