Review: ★★★★★ Meet Me At Dawn, Arcola Theatre

Review: ★★★★★ Meet Me At Dawn, Arcola Theatre

Loosely based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, acclaimed writer Zinnie Harris adapts the tale into the modern day and examines what it means to truly love another person, despite their faults, and how to adapt and deal with grief.

Helen (Jessica Hardwick) and Robyn (Marianne Oldham) are a couple who end up shipwrecked on a remote island after an accident on a boating jolly. As polar opposites, they bicker about how to find their way home, slowly unravelling that everything is not as it seems.

A simplistic set, with a mood changing lighting backdrop by Murat Daltaban, Cem Yilmazer and the DOT Theatre team generates a very Beckett-esque feel, and helps to keep Harris’ words in focus. The initial pace at the very beginning, as Helen and Robyn comfort each other that they’re safe from the wreckage, means words can get lost; but as the pace slows slightly, Hadwick and Oldham deliver Harris’ divine poetic words exquisitely, accomplishing a solid rhythm.

Hardwick and Oldham’s performances are truly estimable, with their chemistry oozing through every line. Both performances feel completely natural; their character’s personality shining through enough to be able to imagine what Robyn and Helen’s life was like together as a normal couple. The aspects of humour embedded within the character’s bickering never forces a laugh, uplifting the temperament of the piece, and making the raw emotion in the final denouement beautifully jarring.

Reminiscent of the 1998 film Sliding Doors: the pair run through all parallels: Harris illustrating the synergy between reality, memory and imagination throughout trauma and grief. As Robyn and Helen come to the realisation of the actuality of the situation, it prompts the question within the audience: what would you do if you could have an extra day with someone that is no longer with us, even if during it you’re unaware of its significance?

As Robyn and Helen push and pull between the different contradictions of individuality/togetherness and blame/acceptance; Harris’ words and Hardwick and Oldham’s performances exemplify the ambiguity and perplexities of the grieving process.

Zinnie Harris strikes again, with Hardwick and Oldham demonstrating exactly how a two-hander is done. Go for an hour of expertly theatre in its purest form.

Niamh Flynn

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