Zinnie Harris has five plays on in Edinburgh this August, including two within the Edinburgh International Festival’s theatre programme. While she may not yet be a household name, in the last couple of years alone her work has been recognised by the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) as both much-in-demand writer and director. It’s unclear, however, to what extent her new play,
Meet Me At Dawn has real insight and authenticity.
Certainly, it’s been given a fine production by the Traverse’s Artistic Director, Orla O’Loughlin, even if a cynic might suggest designer Fred Meller has literally thrown in the kitchen sink—half buried in a misty darkness which is then suddenly illuminated to reveal a craggy slab of rock, dusted with sand and surrounded by a glistening plastic sea. This is when two women stagger into view: Neve McIntosh as Robyn—frightened, confused, and ready to throw up—and Sharon Duncan-Brewster as her partner Helen—fired up, full of adrenaline at their predicament. Both the survivors of a boat accident.
Given it’s a two-hander, McIntosh and Duncan-Brewster prove to be a well-balanced couple, their performances full of fear, anger and that deep-seated love worn down round the edges by everyday physical intimacy. But it is clear, from the start, that something is awry; they seemingly can’t stop talking and, while unsure if they’re on an island or further down the coast from their original starting point, seem stuck where they are. Except… that Robyn is haunted by the ‘muscle memory’ of being somewhere else, alone. Then there’s that ‘mad’ woman they meet, who we never see…
To Harris’s credit, the strangeness of the situation draws you in—even all that business with the strange dry moth caught in Robyn’s hair—but it takes longer than it should for their situation to become clearer, with a script so full of words it feels as if the rhythms are much more important than any meaning. Nevertheless, as a touching portrayal of grief and loss, Meet Me At Dawn has real insight and authenticity.