Charlie’s A Clepto – Axis, Dublin

Writer: Claire Monnelly

Director: Aaron Monaghan

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

First of all, the spelling mistake: it’s intentional, and forms a key part of this narrative, wherein the eponymous Charlie recounts key aspects of her life that lead her to this day, a sacred 24 hours, where if she can only keep out of trouble, she’ll prove that she’s capable of looking after her young son, who had been taken into care. The spelling mistake of the title refers to the word that lost her a spelling bee, a still-unpleasant memory.

Charlie, a working-class single mother with a petty criminal father and alcoholic mother, takes us through the occurrences of said day, reaching back to the past to explain current events. She seems doomed to failure throughout, but the end is hopeful, albeit inconclusive. This works to the piece’s advantage, however, as we are taken through traumatic events like Charlie’s abandoned trip to Manchester for an abortion, her sudden labour, and then her baby being taken from her. To finish with a saccharine ending would have been unfaithful to its spirit.

This spirit is developed by the surroundings Claire Monnelly describes as Charlie tries to find out why her dad has thousands of Euro in cash in his rucksack. We meet her parents, rivals and neighbours, all played with fondness and effervescence by Monnelly. She expertly switches voices, postures and gestures to convey the various characters. The stage is bare, but Monnelly’s performance is all that is required. Charlie is of course the star, firing off sentences full of scorn, humour, and tenderness with occasionally incomprehensible speed.

The dialogue is crisp and tight, crammed with pop culture references, and with an evident love of language. She describes her prodigy, and father of her baby, as a “ninja expert shoplifting sponge”, and her dad sells goods that “only fall off top-notch trucks”. However, the narrative arc is possibly too diffuse, and the Moone Boy actress often seems afraid of going too long without a laugh. This mixing of grim reality with light-heartedness fails to work on occasion, but overall does not detract from a very impressive performance.

Runs until 27 May 2017 | Image: Contributed

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