Penelope Skinner
Traverse Theatre

Shvorne Marks and Amanda Wright Credit: Sid Scott

To bolster its 2018 programme, the Traverse has been lucky enough to attract one of Britain's best new writing companies, Headlong, with this Kafkaesque new play by Penelope Skinner.

The geography is confusing. Although the names sound Icelandic and the events seem reminiscent of news stories from the subcontinent, the 75-minute-long play is apparently translated from an imaginary, unknown Scandinavian language, delivered in English.

The protagonist is an imprisoned young woman named Irene, played with great commitment by Shvorne Marks. She has been arrested for a crime that is not initially revealed.

Her initial expectation that this relates to a seemingly far from inflammatory web site proves unfounded, when Amanda Wright, playing her lawyer Gudrun, discovers that the problem derives from a song delivered to a small nightclub audience, resulting in an anonymous tip-off.

A repressive regime still reeling from the after-effects of a "reformation and explosion" chooses to make the young woman a political pawn.

As a result, the kind of offence that one might expect to result in a small fine is escalated to the extent that the death sentence suddenly becomes a realistic possibility.

At the same time as interactions with Gudrun, we also witness exchanges between Irene and her friend Anna. In this latter role, Scarlett Brookes seems appropriately nervous and shifty, as is only right given that there seems much to cover up, although it is only in the final stages that the truth is revealed and the actress given a worthy speech that she delivers to perfection.

Meek is an edgy, small-scale drama that will make viewers think deeply and critically about politics and the world that we live in today. The work relies a little too much on convenience towards the end but will leave a powerful impression behind, as does a performance from Shvorne Marks under the direction of Amy Hodge, which could well be nominated for awards before the end of the month.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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