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Fringe Theatre 2018 - Meek, Traverse Theatre, Three stars / The House, Assembly George Square, Three stars

The illuminated crucifix on the wall is a giveaway to what coffee bar rebel Irene’s opening statement is kicking against in Penelope Skinner’s play, Meek, directed by Amy Hodge for Headlong in association with Birmingham Rep. Set in a dystopian future, Meek presents a world where merely singing a song can get you arrested. With Irene incarcerated, she is visited by her less outspoken friend Anna and a lawyer, Gudrun. As Irene’s performance is leaked online, radical chic gives way to the vanities of fame.

With a trio of steely performances led by Shvorne Marks as Irene, in terms of subjugation of everyday liberties, Irene’s rise from open mic night troubadour turned superstar martyr recalls Peter Watkins’ cult pop odyssey, Privilege, reinvented for the social media age. Such scenarios may have once been the preserve of paranoid hippy science-fiction, but looks dangerously current.  

Brian Parks takes the stresses of the property ladder to extremes in The House, co-produced by the Americana Absurdum Company. Martyn and Shanny are an older couple selling up their perfectly co-ordinated dream home. Lindsay and Fischer won the bid, and the quartet are celebrating before the keys are handed over and a new era begins.

What initially looks like an awkward comedy of manners soon takes a more manic turn, until any vestiges of politesse are torched away with the leftover fixtures and fittings.

This is played with turbo-charged fury by David Calvitto as Martyn and Pauline Goldsmith as Lindsay, with Alex Sunderhsus’ Lindsay and Oliver Tilney’s Fischer holding their own in the ensuing chaos in Margarett Perry’s production.

The result is a madcap and unhinged demolition of social mores, that reveals an older generation’s fears of anything resembling change, but also an ambitious younger set’s desire to leave their mark, no matter how messy.

The Herald, August 17th 2018



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