“No matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief or does it?”
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
The stunning Hope Mill Theatre opened its doors to a long-awaited theatre audience eager to get back to watching live performing arts.
The Covid safety screening was efficient and slick where the front of house staff guided you through from the box office to the bar area where they had tables with sectioned screens and table service to minimise movement.
British playwright, screenwriter and director Zinnie Harris’ Meet Me at Dawn was first performed at the Traverse Theatre in Scotland in 2017 at the age of 48 her plays have been translated and performed in many countries and she has directed for a number of theatres, including the Royal Shakespeare Company .
The performance at Hope Mill Theatre is directed Ellie Rose from Greater Manchester, starring Susan Jayne Robinson who has an array of successful performances behind her in the North West including television work with the BBC, ITV and Sky TV and the exceptionally talented Helen O’Hara who grew up in Germany and qualified as a German/Spanish translator and interpreter before training as an actor at ICAT. Helen also has a string of successful performances behind her CV including radio, television and has skills in clown and physical theatre.
Helen (Susan Jayne Robinson) and Robyn (Helen O’Hara) are a couple who find themselves washed up on a deserted sandbank after a boating accident. The two are soaked to the skin, sucking air into their lungs after swimming to safety. Robyn is shivering and nauseous and every so often she vomits up salt water, Helen is feeling more alive than ever, pumped with adrenaline and euphoric with the sense of having survived and feeling invincible. The couple are lovers who impulsively rented a boat for the day even though Helen wasn’t a strong swimmer which seemingly capsizes and sinks, leaving them stranded on unfamiliar land surrounded by water completely cut off from the rest of the world.
They seek a way off the unfamiliar island but, as is often the case with islands, all is not what it seems. Over the course of the play you gradually learn that what you are watching is not in real-time, real-life encounter, but more precisely some sort of dream sequence of the ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’. It emerges that one of them is dead and the other is fragmented by grief who is going through the various stages of grief, due to the death of the other and where it doesn’t feel fair or right and are trying to make sense of loss and how they will cope.
The play explores not only loss and bereavement but makes you examine what we would do if we had a chance to be reunited with a lover or relative who has died suddenly – Would it be a blessing or a nightmare and if you had that chance, what would you do with ‘just one more day’!
The play spotlights when someone you know and love dies you’re not just mourning a loss, you are also dealing with the trauma of how they died, Grief is overwhelming and one of the most painful emotions any human will ever encounter. While the pain of grief is the same whether the death is sudden or anticipated, a sudden loss is shocking and disorienting, reducing our ability to cope with and understand what has happened which is exceptionally displayed in Harris’ play.
Both Sarah Jayne Robinson and Helen O’Hara gave sterling performances during the small-scale, intense two-hander drawing you in on their every word. It was for me personally the raw and compelling acting skills of Helen O’Hara that had me captivated and in tears. She was not only whole heartily believable as a grieving partner but that of a lady tinkering on the edge of madness through her pain. Credit to both strong actresses for delivering such a highly emotional script, with such professionalism and dignity.
Meet Me at Dawn is far from a light-hearted play, however it is indeed a simple, effective and well written intelligent play which achieves a lot in a very short space of time exhibiting that death ends a life, not a relationship.
Well done to all involved and welcome back to theatreland everyone!
Meet Me at Dawn continues at Hope Mill until 29th May https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/meet-me-at-dawn
Reviewer; Katie Leicester
Reviewed: 26th May 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★
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