Writer: Penelope Skinner
Director: Amy Hodge
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
As it says in the New Testament “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” well if that earth is the one featured in writer Penelope Skinner’s play, Meek then they are welcome to it.
Set in a dystopian Scandinavian land where religious zealots rule with an iron fist, The Disciples as they are known, act as the law enforcement arm of the church: any crimes against God or the state and you’ll have answer to them and pay a heavy price.
Irene (Shvorne Marks), a factory worker and singer/songwriter has been arrested and locked away, unsure what crime she has committed: her only contact with the outside world come in the form of best friend Anna (Scarlett Brookes) and solicitor Gudrun (Amanda Wright). As Irene’s trial approaches we learn that it is a song titled Song 1 that has landed her in hot water: a song Irene wrote following the end of an affair. We also learn that Irene’s case is gaining international attention, with seemingly the whole world split by the case.
With Gudrun working on her case and Anna offering comfort and guidance, it’s a battle to see if Irene’s sanity holds up: will the authorities show mercy or will Irene become a martyr and symbol against the oppressive regime?
Skinner has written a thought-provoking and provocative piece that keeps you intrigued and poses some interesting questions about faith, fame, censorship, morality, and inequality between the gender gap: there may be no males characters in the play, but this is a man’s world still. This production feels like a companion piece to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or the Netflix series The Handmaid’s Tale. The script does have its flaws: the plays final twist can be seen within the opening 10 minutes, and there is no joy to be drawn from it.
Director Amy Hodge certainly gets the best from the three actors with strong performances: Marks is solid throughout and really anchors the production as the persecuted Irene. Wright gives an ambivalent performance as Gudrun and further adds to the paranoia: you’re never quite sure whose side she’s on. Whilst Brookes, as Anna, represents the outside world: oppressed, scared but full of hope.
Composer Melanie Wilson has crafted a haunting, intimidating sound design, which works beautifully with Zoe Spurr’s atmospheric lighting adding creating and oppressive and intimidating environment.
This is a challenging, anhedonic piece that has something to say and is well worth a watch: it will certainly provoke further discussion after viewing, which is what theatre of this nature should do.
Bleak, but thought-provoking
Runs until 22nd September 2018 | Image: Helen Murray