Charlie Sonata review at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘layered and mordant’
Charlie Sonata is a fairytale for grownups. Douglas Maxwell brings all the mythic properties of his writing for younger audiences to bear on this new play which substitutes matters of life and death for those of good and evil.
Matthew Lenton, who directed Maxwell’s 2005 hit, Mancub, brings a deconstructed surreal quality to the piece.
The biannual drunken reunion of university pals Chic (Sandy Grierson at his crumpled, down-at-heel best), Gary (Kevin Lennon) and Jackson (Robert Jack) is put on hold when Gary’s teenage daughter Audrey is in a life-threatening car crash and Jackson is nowhere to be found.
Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s opened-out, shiny-floored design, uses single, suggestive pieces of set – and Kai Fischer’s lighting – to move with the flitting plot as Chic interrogates the hospital consultant on behalf of his distraught friend. He sets off on an odyssey across the city with Meredith, a ballet company press officer dressed as Carabosse, while time travelling through his own memories.
Maxwell’s convoluted plot is folded around the tale of Sleeping Beauty: Meg Fraser’s troubled, broken Meredith provides a direct link to the ballet. The play is layered with debates on child rearing, drinking, 1990s Brit pop and middle-aged angst.
It’s a shade over-indulgent at times, running to two hours without interval. But writing is always intriguing, and Maxwell never wastes a line, tying up all of its loose ends.
Mark Melville’s echoing sound design creates a sense of heightened reality. Lines of Wonderwall can be heard in the background as Chic finally achieves his apotheosis.