Meek @ Traverse Theatre

Penelope Skinner’s dystopian drama looks impressive, but doesn’t do a whole lot we haven’t seen before

Review by Jon Stapley | 08 Aug 2018

Irene (Shvorne Marks) is a songwriter, a dreamer, a factory worker; a cog in the machine of a repressive ultra-religious regime somewhere in our own world, our own future. She is arrested and imprisoned for reasons unknown, and the regime intends to make an example of her. Confined with her in her gray slab of a cell, we see her conversations with her best friend (Scarlett Brookes) and her appointed lawyer (Amanda Wright) as she unexpectedly becomes a reluctant beacon of hope for the other oppressed people of her nation.

All this may sound familiar. It is difficult to talk about Meek, written by Penelope Skinner, without mentioning its obvious forebears. Take a stroll around the Traverse bar directly afterwards and you probably won’t make it three steps before bumping into someone talking about The Handmaid’s Tale. And it feels almost passé to compare anything to Nineteen Eighty-Four these days but, well, it’s there. Unavoidably. Later, when Irene’s songs start to spread online, and the plot starts to hinge on video views and Facebook likes, it’s hard not to think about multiple episodes of Black Mirror.

The rather static nature of the scenes can start to wear you down after a while – we’re almost always in Irene’s cell, with two people sitting and talking about Irene’s predicament. The three actors flesh out their characters well, and Max Jones’s expensive-looking set is impressive, but it just never stops feeling slow and stilted.

Inarguably, the play feels very relevant to the increasingly dark times in which we live, but maybe that’s why we see this story so much these days. As events in Irene’s life build towards their grimly inevitable conclusion, we may find ourselves wondering: is it enough to listen to these same warnings, these same songs, sung the same way, over and over?

Meek, Traverse Theatre (Traverse One), 31 Jul-26 Aug (not Mondays), various times, £9.50-15

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