Charlie Sonata

Charlie Sonata – a musical name, bringing to mind a musical form in three parts with exposition, development and recapitulation.

So it is with this play, an ambitious two hours of straight theatre without interval, giving us the life and failures of our eponymous hero, told in flashback, dream-like sequences and vignettes of action. Sandy Grierson is magnificent as Charlie aka Chuck, the washed up, rootless drunk, left behind in life by his more successful university mates.

Back from his shiftless life in London for a reunion with these mates, he is devastated to find that his friend’s teenage daughter, Audrey, has been left in a coma after an accident. This is the catalyst for Chuck’s odyssey through the time and space of his life to seek his “apotheosis”, in a glorious mixture of fairytale and gritty reality.

Playwright, Douglas Maxwell, has crafted a tale that streams in and out of Chuck’s consciousness, as he surveys friendship, death and his failed relationship with girlfriend, Mo. Central to holding all together is narrator Robbie Gordon, and also vital is the nod towards Sleeping Beauty, with Audrey lying unconscious and a lively evil fairy called Meredith who befriends Chuck and leads him to a theatrical world of tutus and poisoning. Meredith bestrides the stage in her flashing glittery trainers, black fairy outfit, wispy fairy wings – a strong witty performance by Meg Fraser.

Director, Matthew Lenton, and designe,r Ana Ines Jabares-Pit,a have produced a dreamlike moving set over a shiny black glossy surface with lots of wispy smoke all round, like the floating vagaries in Chick’s mind. Telephone box, hospital bed, floating ballet dancers all glide in and out of the maelstrom. Mark Melville has excelled with the music and sounds, the 90s backdrop to Chick’s youth.

It is a subtle play of mood and nuance, filled with humour and pathos. The lightness of touch and blurring of lines suggests a magic – and magical – realism that reaches from the depths of Charlie’s drunkenness to the glory of his final apotheosis.


Lyceum Theatre until May 13th


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