Charlie Sonata

Douglas Maxwell

Lyceum Theatre Company

Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

From 29 April 2017 to 13 May 2017

Review by Seth Ewin

It doesn't seem that long since Sandy Grierson was going on a surreal journey at the Lyceum in David Greig's adaptation of Lanark. This is not quite as epic, but for a play with no interval it certainly tries.

Chick (Grierson) is an alcoholic whose former drinking buddies have settled down, but when a friend's daughter ends up in a coma after a car accident he attempts to reconnect.

Gary (Kevin Lennon) and his wife (Kirstin McLean) are by the hospital bed of their daughter, Audrey (Lauren Grace), and have little time for Chick's incomprehensible ramblings.

Chick, who is also rebuffed by the doctor, Mr Ingram (Barnaby Power), eventually finds a companion in the unlikely shape of Meredith (Meg Fraser), who is dressed as an evil fairy.

The show is a kind of rambling fantasy, which flips back and forth across the decades. It is very consciously about growing up or failing to grow up.

It has some inspired moments of theatre, from the brilliance of Meredith's shoes to the children's soft play set. Visually a really stunning piece, often in quite a humourously simple way.

Douglas Maxwell's script is funny and it really touches a lot of nerves about life today as well as in the nineties. Kate's speech about being a mother is really insightful.

The play does feel a bit overstretched; an interval might have helped, but probably better would have been to trim it down a little.

There is an intriguing sense of a quest and a mystery to be solved but the revelation and finale feel somewhat anti-climatic.

The play, though, does take on and deal very well in both a lyrical and depressing way with the condition of alcoholism through both the ramblings of Chick and the structure of the play.

While there are many surreal moments, Grierson's performance is disturbingly real. Meredith, though more comic relief, also shows the problems of boozing.

The play does avoid the trap of focussing too much on the three male friends at the centre, with in fact a lot of the humour coming from the women: Meredith, Kate and, in a few scenes set in the past, Audrey.

It is a strange dream of a piece, scary at times, visually astounding at other times and at a few times rather confusing. A slightly shorter version with the ends more tied up would make for a great Fringe show.