City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2017: Meet Me at Dawn, Traverse Theatre, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 09 August 2017

Neve McIntosh and Sharon Duncan-Brewster (credit, David Monteith-Hodge)
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Traverse Theatre
Edinburgh International Festival and Traverse Theatre Company
Running time: 
Zinnie Harris (writer), Orla O'Loughlin (director), Fred Meller (designer), Simon Wilkinson (lighting), Danny Krass (composer, sound)
Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Helen), Neve McIntosh (Robyn)

A dark, chilling ambience envelops the fog shrouded set where you can just make out an old Belfast sink, the tap dripping, before the stage is suddenly floodlit to reveal a giant craggy, grey rock, dusted with sand, surrounded by a glistening cellophane sea of water.

A tall, slim girl staggers over the rock, looking shaken, shocked, disoriented. Another young woman appears, soaked to the skin in wet jeans and bedraggled hair, and they greet each other in joyous surprise. It transpires that they are Robyn and Helen, friends and lovers, who appear to have both survived a boating accident and swum safely ashore.

After an intriguing start, the plot then plods along in a rather mundane manner, as they question each other: Are you OK? Do you have a phone? Where are we? Is this an island?

Encountering a stranger on the shore, the conversation (do you have a phone?), is unconvincing, whether this phantom figure is real or fantasy. The tedious repetition of the F word littering the text is not expressive, literary or amusing and distracts from the otherwise languid, hauntingly, mythical mood of this quasi-classical drama and the beauty of the English language.

Neve McIntosh portrays Robyn as rather distant and reserved, trying to assess their strange situation with her academic sense of reason. She sits on the isolated rock, a place of dreams, hallucinations, fairy tale wishes and remembrance. In contrast, Sharon Duncan-Brewster plays the positively boisterous and bouyant Helen, marking out SOS in the sand. All will be fine, she believes.

Gradually, they realise the truth of where they are in this desolate, lost landscape, following in the footsteps of Orpheus on a journey to be reunited with his beloved nymph in the Underworld. Reflecting on both current political unrest and the passionate power of human relationships, Zinnie Harris has created a modern Greek tragedy/ Shakespearian sonnet/ time-travelling tale/ and a love poem reflecting Audenesque lyricism:

“Don’t say anything unless you have a big mechanical arm that can reach up to the sun and roll it the other way around the world. …turn the clocks back.”

Through totally focused, empathetic performances guided by gracefully cool, choreographed direction, there are some stunning scenes of pure emotion. Stranded in their own Elysian paradise, wrapped up in a thick wool maroon sweater, Helen and Robyn caress, hug and hold each other tight, spooning lovers clinging for life, till death do us part.

6 – 27 August, 2017 Not Mondays. Various times, see
Ticket prices: £21.50 (£16.50/£9.50)