meek top

Scarlett Brookes as Anna and Shvorne Marks as Irene


Birmingham Rep Door


Penelope Skinner, writer of Village Bike, brings us her latest play Meek, with Headlong Theatre. After great acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe it has arrived in Birmingham to provide a thought-provoking and perhaps chilling prediction of the effects of governmental dictatorship and loss of freedom.

Meek takes its setting inside a jail, where Irene is imprisoned for simply writing a song. The government decides that the song is politically charged and strictly against the practice of how a citizen should act.

It is within Irene’s time in prison in which Skinner sets her play to explore universal and yet chilling themes. Gudrun is Irene’s lawyer and a bond is quickly made. Irene’s lifelong friend Anna is obedient refection of oppression in which the play bases its main plot. Through each of the three characters, Skinner shows the dire consequences for society when freedom is not a human right.

Skinner’s writing transcends any particular moment in time and she uses her plot as a bridge that connects events from history and the actions of our society in the present. She brings out universal ideas that come with control from the ruling classes, religion and revolution which alludes to all of time itself.

Small details blend together to create a period of its own. Skinner’s script is sharp and modern, and Max Jones’ set instantly appertains to a Greek style of theatre as we see a marble set with large square stones. Hodge adds small subtleties of a classical style of performance, such as hand gestures or movements from the actors.

The cast are an amazing group to watch and do well to present Skinner’s multi-layered approach to the sensitivity of oppression and censorship. Shvorne Marks plays the determined and hopeful Irene with gusto. The role itself is an inspiring reflection which shows the strength of human nature even at the point where it seems impossible to have any hope at all.


Amanda Wright as Gudrun

Marks is excellent at fulfilling the complex and volatile nature of the character of Irene. Her yearning approach for the greater good leads to an inspiring account of bravery and yet she is still able to carry a realistic and humbling account of vulnerability and fear. During Irene’s incarceration, the public on the outside have turned her into a martyr. Marks does a beautiful job at creating an ebb and flow between the two mighty and conflicting states of being.

Gudrun is played by Amanda Wright. She has an instant aura and shows great, yet caring authority figure within the character. She plays the role firstly as being firm and unassuming, and after each conversation with Irene, we are able to see her personal yearning to fight for Irene’s cause alongside her; Wright is a master at showing us underlying emotions and is completely relatable.

Scarlett Brookes plays Anna who is incredibly obedient and holds a total belief in her religious faith. Through this character, we are able to question our personal actions based on the environment around us and the constant narrative we listen to. Brooks plays the pleading and child-like character brilliantly.

Skinner’s script allows each character to present themselves in an unassuming way at first. As we watch the power of the actors at work, we believe in them totally. Together the cast create a wonderful emotional and personal transformative journey through the event of a political protest.

Skinner does well to reflect upon censorship in the modern day. The audience watch as a nation privileged to have the right to free speech and opinion today is acknowledged but at the same time, she helps us to remember that the situation of which Irene finds herself is, in fact, a reality for others. To 08-09-18.

Elizabeth Halpin


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