Haunting, emotional tale of a wasted life redeemed

THEATRE

Charlie Sonata by Douglas Maxwell directed by Matthew Lenton What do you have to do to hold on?" Chick arrives back in Scotland for a reunion with his old mates Gary and Jackson only to find Garys daughter has been the victim of a life-changing car accident. The antiseptic smell of the wards, the relentless beep of the life support and the sterile hospital bed contrast sharply in Chicks eye with the young wild-haired girl lying there unconscious; inspiring this downtrodden man to embark on a quest to save her life. With redemptive purpose Chick wades out into the city night and amidst the swaying revellers, the streetlights and the scream of sirens he searches for an answer  a gutter-bound dreamer looking at the stars. Charlie Sonata opens 29th April 2017 to 13th May 2017 at The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Picture : Drew Farrell Tel : 07721-735041 CAST Mo Nicola Jo Cully Meredith Meg Fraser Narrator Robbie Gordon Audrey Lauren Grace Chick Sandy Grierson Jackson Robbie Jack Gary Kevin Lennon Kate

Charlie Sonata

Royal Lyceum Theatre, 
Edinburgh

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As the play opens, there’s a hospital bed with a beautiful young girl lying in it, in a coma. There are a few chairs, in a room, off the ward; there’s a doctor, trying to make a phone call. And there’s a man called Charlie Sonata who is so drunk he can hardly speak, but is trying to talk to the doctor.

Charlie is a severe alcoholic, a man in his early forties who was born in Scotland but now lives on the streets of London, or in bleak derelict rooms there. Twice a year, though, he comes back north for a reunion with his two university friends, Gary and Jackson –the ones who have moved on, stopped drinking so much, acquired jobs, mortgages, in Gary’s case a wife and a stepdaughter.

And this time, he arrives to find Gary’s beloved daughter Audrey unconscious in hospital after a road accident, which is where this strange, beautiful and haunting 21st century 
version of a Sleeping Beauty story begins, with Charlie – who has a truly sweet and loving soul, despite his terrible addiction and wrecked body – desperately trying to ask the doctor if there isn’t something he can do, some bargain he can make, that will save Audrey’s life.

Running for just two hours without an interval, Douglas Maxwell’s latest play – directed with a wonderful, dream-like intensity and poise by Matthew Lenton of Vanishing Point – is perhaps just a little too long for the arc of its story; there’s a tragicomic sub-plot that slightly beggars belief, although it creates space for the wonderful character of Meredith, the troubled woman dressed in a wicked fairy Carabosse costume who accompanies Charlie on his night-long journey.

For all its fanciful quality, though, there’s an unforgettable human magic about 
Maxwell’s tale of failed attempts to grow up, of lives gone slightly wrong, of love that appears in the strangest places.

Its rhythm is magnificently captured in Lenton’s production, which features fine sound and music by Mark Melville, a wonderful, dream-like design by Ana Ines 
Jabares-Pita, and a range of performances – from Sandy Grierson as Charlie, Meg 
Fraser as Meredith, and all the rest of the nine-strong cast – that make the heart ache with their vulnerability and strength, their absolute 
emotional reality. Is the play written in sonata form, as some have suggested? I’m not sure. It’s certainly full, though, of the sad, complex music of humanity and of a human soul moving through all the debris of a life in free-fall, towards a decisive final gesture.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Until 13 May