Theatre

Charlie Sonata

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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Neil Cooper

four stars

AS THIS week marks the twentieth anniversary of the Labour Party's General Election landslide, it is the perfect time to see Douglas Maxwell's play, which charts a legacy of 1990s-sired terminal adolescents who try but sometimes fail to grow up. Into what looks like a waiting room to some possible wonderland steps Chick, a middle-aged prodigal who seems to have slipped through the security blanket of post-university career opportunities and domestic bliss. While his former student playmates Jackson and Gary learned how to lead a good and useful life, Chick has kept on partying, though he's long since forgotten why. One minute changes everything, however, and the sight of Gary's sixteen year old daughter Audrey in a hospital bed coma awakens a flicker of purpose for Chick.

Matthew Lenton's dream-like production is a slow-burning elegy to loss in which a disoriented Chick lurch between times and places. Fairies and angels appear. Doctors have breakdowns. There are siege-like liaisons in London telephone boxes. In Sandy Grierson's masterfully understated performance, Chick is a sadder, less angry Yosser Hughes for the Cool Britannia generation, a pickled husk of a man bouncing between other people's lives in search of something to call his own.

Monologues of a sort not heard since those reeled off by feckless drifter Johnny in Mike Leigh's film, Naked – which Chick might have stepped out from – ricochet between the nine actors onstage. From deeply personal roots, Maxwell has conjured up a heart-breaking fantasia about where we are now in a society that either does or does not look after its own, and made a big, beautiful life-saver of a play.