MEEK by Penelope Skinner premiered at this year's Edinburgh Festival and comparisons were made to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

That is unfair on this writer's very dark play which stands alone in its own right as a compelling story exploring state control, freedom of expression, friendship and betrayal.

Director Amy Hodge imagines a bleak dark future, courtesy of a stark stage.

The lighting director Zoe Purr deserves a special mention.

Factory worker Irene has written a love-gone-wrong song.

Christian authority figures claim it is anti-Holy Spirit.

After she stands firm and is jailed, it is picked up by social media at home and abroad and all that entails. Her 'likes' increased with her growing notoriety.

Currently on a UK tour, this production by Headlong and Birmingham Repertory uses an austere grey prison cell with a cold bench, two bollard-like seats and an illuminated cross as the backdrop.

This allows the audience to focus on the sharp dialogue in a tale that is nicely-paced throughout its 65 minutes with only moderate costume changes.

Performances by the three actresses are first rate – each making their respective characters very real: Irene (Shvorne Marks); Gudrun (Amanda Wright) and Anna (Scarlett Brookes).

There's a couple of lighter comments in the conversations between her jittery friend Anna and lawyer Gudrun which fleetingly broke the icy atmosphere.

Do the meek inherit the earth?

Ultimately, there are more questions than answers in this powerful, chilling drama.

It is a soul-searching tale well told.

Intelligent and Intense - four stars.

The production is at the Unity until Saturday (tickets from box office on 0151 709 4899).

It is then at the Lowry Theatre in Salford from September 19-22.