Review: Meek at the Traverse Theatre

The golden rule – show, don’t tell – is left to the wayside in this surprisingly clunky new play by Penelope Skinner.

Set in a Handmaid’s Tale-esque, ultra-religious dystopia where ‘meek’ women regularly collapse into frantic prayer and require permission from their husbands to go out – yet, strangely, still have access to the internet and social media – Meek follows Irene (Shvorne Marks), who has been arrested and imprisoned for singing a supposedly anti-religious song. Friend Ann (Scarlett Brookes) and lawyer Gudrun (Amanda Wright) visit her in prison, bringing the news that, via a video of her singing on YouTube, she has become a viral symbol of revolution – and the furious government intend to make an example of her.

While it’s an impressively female production – writer, director, and all three actors are women – which makes some occasionally pointed references to the fact that women’s transgressions are more violently punished than men’s, there’s very little chemistry between the three performers. This issue may be down to the stilted, somewhat unnatural dialogue more than due to a lack of effort from the actors, though. Scenes are short and move quickly, but rather than building momentum, this turnaround disrupts the flow and each scene isn’t given the chance to hit potential. If you didn’t catch the forced metaphor of saintly martyrdom at first, don’t worry, it’s repeatedly referred to in increasingly obvious ways, and a rather clichéd reveal doesn’t help to fill the play with originality, either.

The exploration of the importance of symbols and representation in the digital age is interesting, but doesn’t seem to gel with the dictatorial setting of the play. The scope and anonymity of the internet allows for freedom; how is this contained by a state which attempts to constrict freedom?

Another miss lies in the lack of context given. We’re given so few details about this fundamentalist state that it’s hard to empathise with Irene’s frustration, Ann’s fearful obedience, or Gudrun’s choice to keep her atheism under wraps. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get emotional about even the most heightened moments when we’re given such little background or character development to draw us in.



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