When someone dies, we don’t get to talk about their death with them. To tell them of our grief, and how—as the character of Robyn in this brilliant and devastating play says—we would “reorganise the universe” to have them back. To tell them where they were buried. To tell them how angry we are that they left. The question at the heart of Meet Me at Dawn is: might this be the fairest way?
The play opens with two women, lovers, stranded on a rocky shore; a sink, half buried in sand, drips in the background. It’s an erroneous, out-of-place object. The women have been in a boating accident and, in this version of reality, both of them have survived. Slowly, another possibility encroaches. Inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Zinnie Harris’s startling script leverages the difference between what has actually happened, and an alternative—a fantasy that is deeply, desperately wished for—to heartbreaking effect.
Though reality shifts in Meet Me at Dawn, the love between the two women is a solid, immovable thing at its core. Harris gives them an amusing, beautifully established dynamic, and intensely-felt performances from Neve McIntosh as Robyn and Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Helen speak of utter devotion, of years spent together. But, just as Robyn and Helen once imagined what their life would be like in a house that they could not afford, it becomes clear that the time they have together is illusory, and short. It is perhaps the greatest achievement of this phenomenal play that to spend it with them, though painful, feels like a tremendous privilege.