Penelope Skinner’s play Meek is revived as a live-stream from Applecart Arts’s Dazed New World festival, and produced by 7th Floor Productions. Focusing on three women living in an ultra-religious, patriarchal unnamed state at some point in the future, it explores injustice in the legal system.
Irene, a singer, has been arrested for performing her new love song at the local coffee house. At first it seems her offence and trial are disproportionate, but slowly things get far worse for Irene (Maria McColgan), as her secular legal representative Gudrun (Jasmine M Stewart) and best friend Anne (Hilda Cronje) reveal different aspects of the case through conversations in her jail cell.
This oppressive regime practises literal Old Testament Christianity, and as Irene’s song lyrics are unpicked (even performed abroad, in translation), it feels her case is hopeless, despite international condemnation and protest.
In one telling scene between Irene and Gudrun, the condemned woman asks her lawyer why she would not get the same sentence (house arrest) as another accused of similar crimes. The answer? “But he is a man.” Men make all the decisions, and dictate what a woman can do and where she can go.
I found the acting persuasive, but the play relies on some key moments on “telling, not showing” which is always a risk. There are areas of the story I wanted to see further explored: how men see women, about betrayal, about what is sexually acceptable in this strange world.
The plot twists in this play are telegraphed fairly early on, and underlined by a final coda scene in which a character brings out a rosary. Even in this dystopian nightmare, the most basic human emotion can be an instrument for catastrophe, and I found this more interesting in some ways than the legal machinations of a fictional legal system.
Ultimately, Meek shows the failure of the Biblical tenet of “casting the first stone”, and a strong argument for the plight of women abandoned by the legal system to be acknowledged. I just feel that by fictionalising the regime in question the message may become diluted.
Meek is directed by Jake Smith and live-streams as part of the Dazed New World festival until 24 October. Tickets can be purchased at Applecart Arts website, starting at £8.
LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to review Meek.