Charlie Sonata

There’s much to admire, to even love, in Douglas Maxwell’s new play at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum; a script full of humour and subtle characterisation, if not always clarity and sense, which director Matthew Lenton—Artistic Director of much-acclaimed Vanishing Point—has given a luminous staging, every character clearly delineated by casting and costume. Yet there are disappointments too: a script that’s too long, clunky in its metaphors, and guilty of “tell” rather than “show”.

Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s set, illuminated by Kai Fischer, is suitably abstract

“Can this be right?”, our grey-suited narrator (Robbie Gordon) asks, as the titular Charlie Sonata wanders on-stage to start things off. Our narrator gets the last word too, albeit apparently providing audio-description for the hard of understanding, rather than adding any dramatic impact to what could’ve been a heart-rending moment. It’s not much of a role, admittedly; Gordon wanders on and off stage, often with a disappointed look in his eyes as if everyone has failed to make the grade, while that rhythmically repeated question—“Can this be right?”—loses more meaning every time it’s asked.

While Lenton has gathered together an excellent ensemble cast, our eyes are necessarily drawn to lanky Sandy Grierson as our titular heroic drunk, Charlie Sonata—or “Chic” to his old university pals who, unlike him, have moved on from student days with careers and family. Seemingly always on the point of being about to lose his balance, or shit in his pants, Sonata’s the increasingly incoherent man you’d never want to speak to in a bar. Yet he’s fundamentally innocent in his outlook, at his happiest when dispensing shamanic advice about the best drinks to take for a perfect evening.

With one of his best mate’s daughter in a coma after a road accident, “Uncle” Sonata is on an odyssey to bring her back, assisted by Meredith, the “tad manic” sister of one of the doctor, who is desperate to force life’s troubles into the fairytale template of Sleeping Beauty. Charlie’s journey is somewhat fluid, slipping between past and present, between university days and life as an alcoholic in a London graveyard. Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s set, illuminated by Kai Fischer, is suitably abstract; filled with neon signs and a red telephone box pushed here and there across the stage.

We’re promised an “apotheosis”—an elevation to divine status—but, while we do get one, it’s less impactful than it could be. For, while we’re told that Sonata was once a man of real poetry and potential, we’re never shown this to be the case. Even in the 1990s, Sonata is always the passive one, nodding at his pals’ ideas but never having the impact he could. A bit like the play itself, in fact.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti

★★
Traverse Theatre

W*nk Buddies

★★★
Traverse Theatre

Pride Plays

★★★★
Multiple Venues

Oor Wullie

★★★★
Oran Mor / Traverse Theatre

Fly Me To The Moon

★★★★
Platform / Traverse Theatre

The Panopticon

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

“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 Gary’s 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 Chick’s 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. This funny, lyrical, booze-soaked odyssey is a World Premiere professional production by acclaimed Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell. It is directed by Matthew Lenton whose Lyceum credits include Shakespeare’s A

Midsummer Night’s Dream and the acclaimed work of his own company Vanishing Point, hosted by The Lyceum for the Edinburgh International Festival 2016.

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Anything Goes

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets