Theatre Review: MEET ME AT DAWN – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Mature and moving, MEET MET AT DAWN is an intelligent examination of love and grief

4 out of 5 stars

Following seven long months of closure, Hope Mill Theatre once again opens its doors to the public with HER Productions’ MEET ME AT DAWN, a modern-day fable by award-winning writer Zinnie Harris.

The one-act two-hander, inspired by the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, follows Helen (Susan Jayne Robinson) and Robyn (Helen O’Hara), a young couple who have washed ashore following a boating accident. Dazed and disorientated by their experience, the pair try to find a way home but soon discover that the unfamiliar land is not what it seems.

As Jane Lalljee’s lighting design pulses to life, it soon becomes clear that things are not what they seem. Hannah Sibai’s almost completely bare stage gives away no information, initially leaving the audience as dazed and confused as Robyn and Helen. Add in Harris’ fractured and jittery dialogue and there’s a somewhat interesting tension, as the nature of reality itself becomes questionable.

Yet this isn’t an eerie piece but an intelligent examination of love and grief. Director Ellie Rose allows the plot twists to unfold as movements, rather than shocks, the drama being in the gradual realisation of the situation and its painful acceptance.

The piece is held together by two strong performances from Robinson and O’Hara. The pair make for a convincing couple as they navigate from smooth waters with intelligence and grace. Their petty arguments, subtle affection and natural rhythm, feel genuine and believable and despite its dark tone, the pair inject just enough humour into their roles to ensure the play doesn’t remain relentlessly bleak.

In fact, you could say that MEET ME AT DAWN is a somewhat fitting piece of work to reopen the theatre. Two characters stuck in an intimate setting coming to terms with life and loss is sure to resonate with so many people’s experiences of the last year.

This also makes it a bit of a tough watch. MEET ME AT DAWN is far from a fun lighthearted night out at the theatre but in just 80 minutes, it achieves a lot in a very short space of time. Harris’ play is brilliantly written and unflinchingly honest, questioning life itself, and how our interpretation of events can colour our experience of life and death.

MEET ME AT DAWN runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 29 May 2021.