Meek

The Traverse Festival program has jumped into action, already selling out full days' worth of shows at a time. The venue has high reputation for its new writing and for good reason. Written by Penelope Skinner in association with Headlong Theatre, Meek will surely only further this reputation.

The connection between the all-female cast is palpable on stage

Set in a future religious society where secularism is not an option, one woman (Shvorne Marks) finds herself in prison and unsure why. Through social media and a burgeoning desire for revolution she faces a choice of what price her freedom is worth.

The stage is set as her one empty grey prison cell. It is not very exciting to look at save from a glowing cross in the corner bringing a focal point for the design. This set is understated and meek (of course). This also means the whole play does not change location adding to its delivery as a slow burner. Although perhaps not instantly captivating the Skinner’s delicate writing slowly lures you in creative an absolutely captivating show.

This would be impossible to achieve without the skilled performance of Marks who beautiful depicts the young woman’s anguish and confusion over her entrapment. She is soft, precise and utterly entrancing. The supporting performances by Amanda Wright and Scarlet Brooks are also very strong and the connection between the all-female cast is palpable on stage.

Often plot lines featuring the impact social media has on society have proven to be very heavy handed and with the enduring popularity of shows such as ‘Black Mirror’ it can be found everywhere as a theme. Fortunately this production did not succumb to this pitfall and the relation between the characters and the internet seemed earnest and believable. Whether that be the use of internet forums as a source of news and opinion or the constant monitoring of the prisoner’s likes versus dislikes as a means of gauging the public opinion. When this is attached to the possibility of a revolution its real world applicability becomes very clear and reminiscent of the use of social media platform as an instigator during the Arab spring.

Skinner's writing has some truly beautiful moments, particularly dealing with the religious influences throughout the play. A monologue towards the end of the play dwelling on whether the central character is being ‘watched over’ creates a seamless use of the word ‘Him’ to refer to both God and a man. The big question that seemed to come up for me whilst watching this piece was: “what if God was just a man, fallible and limited?”. How would we see him then and what would being devout mean?

One of the most beautiful things about Meek is it doesn’t try to force answers or make a particular statement, instead it opens up a series of questions and a dialogue that could be different for every person sitting in the audience. Surely that’s what good theatre should make you do. Think.

Reviews by Gillian Bain

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The Blurb

In a society where private lives become political and freedom of expression is not an option, Irene finds herself imprisoned. As tales of her incarceration spread overseas and her growing exposure becomes a threat, she is forced to make a brutal decision. Penelope Skinner’s (Linda, The Village Bike) new play is a haunting vision of ruthless state control, tense friendships and one woman’s determination not to be broken. Presented by the exhilarating Headlong (People, Places & Things, This House) and directed by Amy Hodge, Meek is a tale which reflects on our own fraught times.

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