Friday, May 12, 2017

Charlie Sonata.

An excellent title to my mind though I'm not sure why. Perhaps only it sounds a bit musical and because I yearn for more syllables in my name. 

It's the latest Lyceum show anyhow. Written by Douglas Maxwell of whom I have high hopes. And it turned out to be directed by Matthew Lenton who seems to be guaranteed to make a beautiful if not always wholly intelligible show. It's a promising package.
The play tells the tale of Chick's best mate's 16 year old daughter who's been (spoiler alert!) knocked down by a car. Though you find this out right away so I'm not ruining much of the suspense. Chick is in his early forties (oh my goodness, like me. Like Douglas himself who is (horrors! one year older than me and has so many more plays to his name!) and doesn't have much to show for his time on God's green earth (jury's out) and tries to offer himself up to the haughty and dismissive doctor as a donor. Except she doesn't need much of anything, it seems, beyond whatever makes us leap up in the morning and drag/skip through another day.

Cue all sorts of flashbacks interspersed with delightfully chaotic slices of now to explain why Chick isn't wholly in love with his life.

For someone in their early forties, the soundtrack to the show is nothing but a delight as the audio version of Chick's university years is also mine. A mishmash of the songs that provided the soundtrack for Parklife at the Park End Club every Monday during my supposedly studious days. Just wait for Wonderwall - it's truly stunning.

The acting is nothing short of excellent. Sandy Grierson (just look at that CV) is outstanding. As MM said, it's extremely difficult to act drunk even briefly, let alone for two continual hours. And it would have been so very easy to make Chick's dishevelled life look shameful, incomplete, inadequate. But Mr Grierson gives him such dishevelled grace that it's hard not to like Chick, addictions, anti-social behaviour and all. The rest of the cast are pretty much pitch perfect too. 

And the production is beautiful. It's almost like an exercise in trying to assemble the biggest collection of surreal things on stage, at one time, that they can. Brightly coloured plastic balls, tutus, a clinically white hospital bed and a vibrantly red phone box. But they pull it off with panache - to the point where you don't even notice that none of these things would usually exist in proximity. The lighting - ah, so it's Kai Fischer who also always seems to do an excellent job - is pointed and imaginative and striking.

Production wise, it's a perfect package.

But what does it mean?

I've been thinking about it all week. Helped a little by speculation from critics that it's vaguely autobiographical and supported by a snatch of a conversation between someone and one of the actors afterwards in the bar. And I conclude that it's a bit of a 'life is sh*t but occasionally spectacular' story and a bit of a eulogy for lost youth and a bit of a 'there but for the grace of god go I' story. Sonata's a clue, isn't it? "A type of musical composition, usually for a solo instrument, typically consists of two or four movements, each in a related key with a unique musical character." The leaps about in time in the script were certainly that. 

The Lyceum's byline is "what do you have to do to hold on?" so maybe that's its point. What do you have to do - and at what point, is it no longer worth holding on? Charlie Sonata gives us an answer. So I conclude that I like the play. For all that's worth. Douglas Maxwell, I salute your mind again.


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