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Meet Me at Dawn review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘a surreal meditation on grief’

Meet Me at Dawn at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
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Zinnie Harris once worked as a writer-in-residence at a hospice. In Meet Me at Dawn, she distills the experience of grief – how it takes you on a journey as the mind realigns – into a twisty one-hour tale.

Practical Robyn (Marianne Oldham) and carefree Helen (an ethereal Jessica Hardwick) are shipwrecked on an island, a liminal space where the mind can play tricks and lost souls gain flesh. Oldham’s Robyn ages a decade as she moves from fond irritation to overwhelming loss, her tired eyes constantly searching for a solution the universe won’t provide.

Harris’ deft script is inspired by Orpheus and Eurydice, but there’s a little of the sweet airs of The Tempest in it too, as the mundane mixes with the transcendental. One moment Helen finds a toffee in her pocket; the next, we shift time and place and Robyn is wailing, eyes bright with fury, at the unfairness of existence.

This is accompanied by a score by Oguz Kaplangi that’s so good you barely notice it, comprising bright heavenly strings and foreboding hums that add textural emphasis to this place between worlds.

Murat Daltaban directs with humour and surrealism. The minimalist set, also by Daltaban, features sunset colours that turn an alarming hospital white when the real world starts to intrude on Robyn’s dream-island.

The whole effect is of a strange place that offers both comfort and fear – one that anyone who has fond memories of someone they have loved and lost will recognise.

Playwright Zinnie Harris: ‘The rehearsal room is the place of real discoveries’

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Zinnie Harris’ modern retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice offers up a surreal meditation on grief