February 17, 2022

Fringe review: Meet Me at Dawn

Fringe Festival
Murray Bramwell

Two women are cast on to a desolate beach. As they begin to get their bearings the world will never be the same. Nor, perhaps, will yours either.

Five Stars.

The play opens with a thunderous ocean swell, courtesy of sound designer Sascha Budimski, and a darkened stage, courtesy of Mark Oakley’s lighting. Gradually the visibility lifts and we see a young woman drenched to the skin, hair bedraggled, trying to gather herself after being hurled on to the beach by a storm-tossed tide. She is distressed and is calling to another in increasing desperation. Another young woman appears and they begin trying to understand their predicament.

As they take stock of themselves Robyn, the first woman, is nauseous and vomiting. The other, Helen is exhilarated, wired and immediately looking to take action. They have been out on the sea in a hired boat and had got into difficulties. They have scrambled to shore but can’t tell if they are on an island, or a sandbar soon to be submerged again by the ocean.

Helen, the scientist, is trying to verify the line of shore. She arranges their wet clothes into an SOS for a possible plane rescue. She is worried about getting back to the house because the dog they are minding has been left locked inside.

Robyn is unsettled – “Something has changed” she says. She is having flashbacks of a kitchen tap overflowing. Helen castigates her for her muddle. Has she got concussion ? Or is it that she lives in a gothic novel and is always miserable? It is as if they are on different planes of being. One of them says : “there are always parallel universes, that can split at any minute.”

Director Nescha Jelk has unerringly taken UK playwright Zinnie Harris’s luminous short play, Meet Me at Dawn and, with the inventive sound and light and Meg Wilson’s costumes and simple design creates an intimate space for the two excellent and evocative performances. Wendy Bos as Robyn has a suppressed apprehension and then unfolding terror, while Sarah Bos’s Helen has a giddy sense of freedom which turns into exasperation and betrayal.

The unfolding mysteries in Harris’s text are intricate and emotionally confronting. A stranger appears on the beach and the women try unsuccessfully to get her help. She answers blankly. Robyn recognises her as a homeless person who sought shelter in their back shed. Helen wasn’t there. As if in a fable the stranger says to Robyn she will grant her one wish.

I don’t recall reviewing a play before where revealing even a skerrick of the plot would spoil the unfurling lyricism and mythic sadness of its telling. But here it would, so I haven’t.

Meet Me at Dawn is a splendid play about loss and grief – and this is a compelling production. It is already a Fringe highlight. Even Orpheus and Eurydice would be enthralled.

Meet Me at Dawn plays at The Studio, Holden Street Theatres until February 27.

Fringe review: Meet Me at Dawn

Published online at InDaily on February 17, 2022

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