Meet Me At Dawn written by the award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris and directed by the Traverse Theatre's Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin asks some very old and profound questions in this Traverse Theatre Production at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival without really providing any answers…mainly because there are no answers to the questions.
Our basic human emotions of love, grief and coming to terms (or not coming to terms) with the loss of someone very special to you are examined here along with the premise that you get a most unexpected gift, the chance to spend just one more day with that person…what would you do with that gift? Washed up on an unknown shoreline after a boating accident, this is the gift and the situation that Robyn (Neve McIntosh) finds herself in as she is re-united with the lost love of her life Helen (Sarah Duncan Brewster).
The source idea for this story comes from the classic tale of Orpheus’s desperate attempts to reclaim his lost wife Eurydice from the underworld. Throughout, we are never told where this island of “The Gift” is. Are we in Helen’s grief stricken imagination, some part of the underworld, heaven, or even some barren and remote corner of The Elysian Fields?...no answers are ever given.
Sarah Duncan-Brewster and Neve McIntosh handle the realisation of where they are and their fates here well, and both are gifted stage performers and story-tellers who easily bring us into their world, but for some reason I got no feeling here that the two were lost lovers and by the way it is given “The Gift” turns out to be at times more of a poisoned chalice as so much of the day is wasted in the slow realisation of their circumstances. There is also the cruel sting to this gift of losing that special person once again, and this time forever.
Neve McIntosh as Robyn does get the more interesting of the two parts here for me as we watch her skilfully portray a mixture of grief, anger, bewilderment and resentment at being the one left to survive on her own. It is also Robyn who, as the receiver of the gift, is slowly coming to terms with its implications and the way that it has been given to her. Sarah Duncan-Brewster as the doomed Helen on the other hand is by the nature of her role given limited movement in how to portray it…what do you do once you realise that you are dead? This role has limited directions in which it can go, and it is interesting that out of the two of them it is Helen who accepts what cards the fates have dealt while we are never too sure of Robyn’s final acceptance of the situation.
For me, this is a story that has so many possible variables to it as everyone would probably have a different reaction if given this second opportunity, and once the reality of this story is established as our doomed lovers discover exactly what their fates are, we then seem to be locked into a never ending cycle of repetitiveness with few options as to how everything will end.
Review by Tom King