Review: Charlie Sonata - Grierson is commanding as Maxwell’s hobo philosopher

Sandy Grierson as Chic
Sandy Grierson as Chic
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DYSFUNCTIONAL lives collide in Douglas Maxwell’s warped fairy-tale, Charlie Sonata.

Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street

* * * *

Five disparate characters loiter on stage, at their centre, teenager Audrey lies in a hospital bed, her parents Gary and Kate either side. The prognosis is not good.

Enter Chic, up from London for a reunion with Jackson and Gary, friends from his student days.

And so, with the insistence that “Time travel is nonnegotiable...” the actions to have brought Audrey, Chic, and those loitering, to this point in their lives begin to unfold as long cherished friendships, dreams and hopes are revealed in flashback.

As the action jumps from present to past and back, there is much that works in this crisp, entertaining production directed by Matthew Lenton, there are also moments that meander when they should soar.

Sandy Grierson’s Chic is quietly compelling as he shambles through life, ever in search of his next drink. A hobo philosopher, he dispenses advice without fear or favour as only an alcoholic can. The lynchpin of the piece, Grierson is commanding.

Drawn into his surreal world, those around him swim in his chaotic wake.

Barnaby Power as troubled, world weary surgeon Mr Ingram is the ideal foil for Grierson’s gentle humanity. Nicely underplayed, he fields the ramblings of the drunk with a professional courtesy that is nothing more than a crafted mask.

As long time friends Jackson and Gary, Robert Jack and Kevin Lennon, are sympathetic to each other and to Chic.

Elsewhere, performances are uneven. Robbie Gordon’s stilted narration easily accounts for many of the extraneous minutes in this two hours plus odyssey, which is delivered without the comfort of an interval.

That may help the flow of the piece but also emphasises points at which the action becomes unhinged. Enter Meredith, a loved-up psychotic ballerina.

In the role, Meg Fraser’s bumptious reading of the character becomes wearing, her manic nature never quite tempered with enough truth. It’s a clumsy creation made all the more tiresome by a bizarre gimmick; flashing shoes that do nothing more than a distract.

Conversely, not enough is seen of Nicola Jo Cully’s stoically fragile Mo, a chapter of Chic’s tale in need of development.

Bringing a fairy tale-like atmosphere to proceedings, Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s set design is clean and dainty, while Mark Melville’s score and soundscape is tantalisingly evocative.

That said, there’s no doubting that Charlie Sonata is very much Grierson’s production, join him on his journey and be inspired.

Until 13 May