At the Break of Dawn

At the Break of Dawn is a show brimming with big ideas and questions all jostling together for space; but whilst the concept itself is impressive, the execution falls short of its potential.

It will leave you pondering and thinking about important issues, and questioning your own ideals as well as those of the characters

The play follows three self-titled “revolutionaries” on the eve of a coordinated attack they hope will bring down the Government. They include Claude, their spy in the civil service, Enjolras, a passionate communist idealist and Rosa, a brilliant computer programmer who has designed an algorithm she claims can predict the future. While the script pops and sizzles with big questions about the nature of change and what methods are effective or morally justified in bringing it about, half the fun is watching the characters’ competing ideals clash and in the end destroy each other.

The cracks begin to appear with the general direction of the piece. Text and dialogue heavy theatre requires tight, subtle and very controlled movement to keep the audience engaged: here this is lacking, which leaves sections of the play dipping in energy and focus. This means the play never quite has a true peak of intensity, even when the action on stage seems to suggest it, leaving certain moments that should be edge-of-your-seat mostly anti-climactic.

And the show’s best quality also hinders it. Despite raising so many interesting questions, the play never really gets round to taking a stance or making a statement, leaving the end to be rather toothless.

In spite of this, there is enough good here to recommend; the company is clearly intelligent and wants to engage its audience. I highly recommend you stick around for the post-show discussion, where you get a chance to discuss said issues with the cast and crew. The cast do enough to keep things on an even keel: in particular Carlotta Ipsen delivers a solid turn as the dry, sarcastic and methodical Rosa. In the end At the Break of Dawn will leave you pondering and thinking about important issues, and questioning your own ideals as well as those of the characters, which is worth the price of admission itself. With more robust direction and energy this would be a nail biting thriller; as it stands it’s an enjoyable and thought-provoking hour.

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

Britain, 2015 – three revolutionaries, with three personal reasons for sedition, create an algorithm that tells them how to control the future. Everything seems to be ready when they reunite hours before their revolution – until one of them asks 'at what cost?' As the fall of the government draws closer, they begin to question why they are seeking revolution, and what it can hope to achieve. At the Break of Dawn is a new play by Leo Doulton and Carlotta Ipsen, presented at Edinburgh following a sell-out international tour.