Monday, April 22

Meek – Dazed New World Festival

“I’m just a woman who works in a factory, I don’t want any of this!”. These are the words of the heroine of this play, Irene, (played by Maria McColgan) and seemed to me to sum up what the play was all about. A part-time songwriter who is unwittingly drawn into a confrontation with the regime running the country when a love song she has written and performed takes social media by storm (somewhat of an obsession of the character) but is misinterpreted by the country’s religious leaders as a blasphemous attack on their devout beliefs, resulting in Irene being thrown into a prison cell, where the vast majority of the action takes place.

Set sometime in the not too distant future in a country not too far from our own, the play centres around the conversations between Irene and her long-time best friend Anna (played by Hilda Cronje) who tries her best to get Irene to conform with the rule of the Regime and to repent of her sins and wrongdoings. In no small part due to the attention Irene and her song writing gain on social media, measured by the number of “likes” she receives, she becomes somewhat of a beacon of hope to those disaffected and oppressed young people of her country. Her small act of resistance turns her overnight into a focal point against the Regime, who of course do not take kindly to this perceived challenge to their authority and determine to make an example of her.

The progress of the story is developed through the conversations of Irene and her appointed lawyer Gudrun, (played by Jasmine M. Stewart) and we see how the Regime are determined not to allow the actions, however unintentional and misinterpreted they have been, of this new political activist to undermine their authority. As the narrative progresses, we discover how the current situation that Irene finds herself in has come about. Her parents had been killed during the “Reformation”; the inspiration for the song she had written which was at the centre of all the controversy was a complicated relationship with John, a married man who she was planning to run away with on the summer solstice of June 21st, a significant date throughout the storyline, until he decided at the last minute that their relationship was over, which became the inspiration for the song which caused all Irene’s problems.

The big question throughout the play was who had reported Irene to the authorities? This is a question we never actually have answered, so we are left to make up our own minds on this. The story is developed very well through the interactions and conversations between Irene herself and her friend and her lawyer. One of the marks of a good story is wanting to know how it is going to end and I was personally intrigued as to what would be the final outcome, not just the what but the why. As Anna says during the narrative, “We live in difficult times, only God knows why things happen”.

The three cast members performed their parts convincingly and well. The very stark setting of the prison cell was totally appropriate to the needs of the production. The director brought the writer’s words to life through the actor’s narrative and overall, I found this a well-crafted production and would recommend it unreservedly.

Reviewer: David S. Clarke                                                           

Reviewed: 20th October 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★