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Meet Me at Dawn review at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘drives along with power’

Neve McIntosh and Sharon Duncan-Brewster in Meet Me At Dawn. Photo: David Monteith Hodge Neve McIntosh and Sharon Duncan-Brewster in Meet Me At Dawn. Photo: David Monteith Hodge
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Zinnie Harris is somewhat ubiquitous at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, updating Ionesco, retelling Aeschylus and here, with Meet Me at Dawn, using the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as her touchstone to write a new drama.

Helen and Robyn are stuck on an island. At least it appears to be an island, this piece of dirt created by designer Fred Meller with an eye to the Boyle Family and lit with dark clarity by Simon Wilkinson. They can’t quite remember how they got there or where they are, until they begin to recall the boating accident which nearly drowned them both.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Helen is all brittle energy and relief at having survived. Neve McIntosh’s Robyn is more lost in her memory of what it was that drew them there. Director Orla O’Loughlin keeps this Traverse production for the EIF driving along with power, as Robyn begins to work out the reality.

Robyn is the only survivor: although Helen did not drown, she did not survive. And in her grief, Robyn has somehow managed to wangle a day with her dead love. Compensation – perhaps – for her loss. A chance to say goodbye. A chance to express her true feelings.

O’Loughlin succeeds in exploring the depths of Harris’s script, allowing these two women (that is important: gender becomes irrelevant) to explore the nature of grief and loss, of why anger at the deceased should be allowed, of where the emptiness can be found.

The script, however, feels as if it could stretch just a little further. It provides glimpses of something deeper and more profound. Like a face hidden in a darkened mirror, it is a hint at what could be revealed.

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Zinnie Harris explores the nature of grief and loss in her new two-hander