Meet Me at Dawn

MTC Meet Me At Dawn Sheridan Harbridge and Jing-Xuan Chan photo by Pia JohnsonTwo women collapse on a sandy shore after their boat sunk. They are alive, have warm clothes and are ready to joke about compensation payouts as they wait to be rescued because they have no idea which way to walk to their car. And they might be on an island. Is that the coast on the horizon? And why won’t a strange woman understand that they need help?

Maybe survival isn’t as easy as simply waiting to be rescued. And when the sand is blue and the cliffs are a dilapidated house (design by Romanie Harper), maybe nothing is what it seems. Or maybe a plane will see their SOS in the sand, and they will be home before dark to feed their neighbour’s dog.

Melbourne Theatre Company’s Meet Me At Dawn, by UK writer and director Zinnie Harris, is an examination of grief that was first seen at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017.

Grief sucks – no matter how much we understand the five stages of grief, embrace radical acceptance, or wish that, like Orpheus, we hadn’t looked to check on Eurydice (the Orpheus myth influenced this story). When and how grief manifests is as surprising as it is text-book obvious. But it sure sucks, especially when the constant “what-if” scenarios offer moments of false comfort.

Robyn (Jing-Xuan Chan) and Helen (Sheridan Harbridge) hired a boat to have a safe and easy couple’s adventure. It wasn’t a good boat. Or they didn’t know what they were doing. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

With complementing styles, Chan and Harbridge feel like a couple who are so different to each other that you know they should be together, and who have been together long enough to not worry about being angry at the other one.

Their relationship is comfortable enough so that any underlying issues aren’t as worrying as the chance of running out of water. Both hold onto hope even as they discover the truth, and the tension and stakes remain high as the audience discover the truth with the characters.

Director Katy Maudlin (Iphis, Lyric Opera and Slap, Bang, Kiss, MTC education program) focuses on relationships and how people hide or deny the truth. Meet Me At Dawn is a mystery, an adventure rescue, a surreal trip, and a love story that holds onto the secrets, which seem so clear once they are revealed.

At under 90 minutes without an interval, it moves at a pace that allows for questions and reflections without losing focus on the relationship on the stage. The mystery is solved at the right time, which leaves space for interpretation and time for the audience to feel their own grief, loss and “what-ifs”.

Grief sucks because it begins with love and hope, and because there isn’t an easy way to escape or be rescued. Meet Me At Dawn is at times obvious in its symbolism, but these recognisable images and ideas allow the work to rip open the complexity and exasperating ironies of grief and loss.

Meet Me at Dawn
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 16 February 2024
Season continues to 16 March 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Sheridan Harbridge and Jing-Xuan Chan in Meet Me at Dawn – photo by Pia Johnson

Review: Anne-Marie Peard