Mark Ludmon reviews Zinnie Harris’s Meet Me At Dawn at London’s Arcola Theatre
Meet Me At Dawn
Arcola Theatre, London
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has long fascinated writers. There is something very real about a grief-stricken man desperately trying to find a way to the afterlife to bring back his dead wife. It was (loosely) the inspiration for Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending, which ran at Mold’s Theatr Clwyd and London’s Menier Chocolate Factory this year, and the story at the heart of award-winning musical Hadestown. Zinnie Harris has drawn on her interest in the story for her touching short play Meet Me At Dawn which, after premiering at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in 2017, has come to London in a new production directed by Murat Daltaban.
Two women, Helen and Robyn, find themselves washed up on a deserted sandbank after a boating accident. They seek a way off the island but, as is often the case with islands, all is not what it seems. It soon emerges that one of them is dead and the other, broken by grief like Orpheus, has found a way to spend one last day with her partner. The play explores not only loss and bereavement but ponders what we would do if we had a chance to be reunited with a lover or relative who has died suddenly. Would it be a blessing or a nightmare?
Beautifully written with two strong performances by Marianne Oldham and Jessica Hardwick, Meet Me At Dawn touchingly reveals the bonds that underpin the couple’s relationship but, in bringing them together, it stops short of fully extracting the pain of their separation. However, it features insights into the experience of bereavement in a way that left at least one member of the audience heart-broken on the night I saw it. The staging is stunning, with a colour-shifting backdrop, designed by Daltaban with lighting designer Cem Yılmazer, complemented with the aching beauty of Oğuz Kaplangı’s musical soundscape. At 60 minutes, it is an unsentimental and intelligent dissection of loss which, through its evocative conjuring up of a mythic world, ends up tackling the agony of bereavement from a distance.
Running to 9 November 2019
Photos: Lidia Crisafulli