Review: Charlie’s a Clepto (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Now streaming on the Assembly Showcaster platform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Clare Monnelly’s new play Charlie’s a Clepto is performed by the writer and is on the surface about a young Irish woman who has a compulsion to steal.

We quickly realise, though, that there is more at stake than the ramifications of stealing small stuff from the supermarket. The stealing stemmed from a mistake at a spelling contest (hence the ‘clepto’ of the title rather than ‘kleptomaniac’), but it is may rob Charlie of something she cares about most in the world.

This is a detailed and intelligent play, populated by numerous characters who interact with Charlie or who take up space in her mind. At just over eighty minutes, Monnelly has the time to develop a story with a whole world attached. The virtual backgrounds are never distracting; Francois Gray and Aaron Monaghan directs this digital version of a show which has already run live with a light touch.

Promotional image for Charlie's a Clepto

Delivered with a heavy Dublin brogue, at a brisk pace, concentration is needed to keep up with Monnelly’s performance and storytelling, but the effort is well worth it. The play may be heavy with the ghosts of Irish writers of the past, as well as moments of popular culture, but Charlie’s story still comes through as unique with a whole town set before us through vocal and physical virtuosity.

When the story needs to take a pause, it does with ease, allowing both writer-performer and viewer to take a breath.You can make connections and listen to moments which highlight what Charlie is about; why this day is so crucial. Moments are described with such clarity, and humour, that we are there with her every step of the way.

Fringe rating: ****

You can stream Charlie’s a Clepto (presented by Axis Ballymun and Dublin Port Company) on the Assembly Showcaster platform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until the end of August – book your ticket here.