Love, Loss and Chianti

Christopher Reid, devised for the stage by Robert Bathurst
Thirty-20 Theatre in association with Chichester Festival Theatre
Minerva Theatre, Chichester

I suppose it would be considered sacrilege to even think about editing and shortening the work of such an eminent poet, but I have to say I found the whole evening very long indeed.

Actor Robert Bathurst was obviously, and quite rightly, impressed and moved by the two poems, the first trying to come to terms with the death of his wife, the actress Lucinda Gane, and the second trying to rekindle an old flame, and he narrated and acted each one superbly, but while the visual aspect is entertaining I would prefer to read and savour the words, pausing and going over again passages that appeal.

The Scattering begins promisingly enough with The Flowers of Crete and makes gentle fun of "the Englishman abroad" (himself) with his inadequate panama hat. This was written for Lucinda when she knew she only had a short time to live and is remembering their last holiday together.

Several phrases such as "The path above the bay" evoked my own memories of the place and the tone of this period is happier, then it goes on to her bravery in the hospice followed by meditations on bereavement and it is all extremely moving, but filled with such sadness and loss as he has to get used to being “One of the left-over living”. “Of course I’d forgotten she’d died”.

This is essentially a fifty-minute monologue from Bathurst accompanied only occasionally by short bursts of Tom Smail’s music played on viola (Dorothea Vogel) and cello (Vanessa Lucas-Smith) and is real tour-de-force.

The second poem, The Song of Lunch, is both happy and sad. Reid intended it to be “pure comedy, a light farce that might provide an antidote to the previous grief”, as He (the only name given) returns to an Italian Soho restaurant to meet an old flame fifteen years after the relationship ended.

Everything has changed, even the area, and the place, far from being authentic Italian cuisine, specialises in pizzas with the requested wine list on the back of the menu. No matter, he has high hopes for the meeting and waits impatiently, indulging in one or two glasses of wine to steady the nerves.

It is obvious when She arrives that they both have changed too. She is married to a successful novelist and lives in Paris with husband and children. She is confident and happy while he has sunk into a middle-aged depression, bored with his job and frustrated by his life.

They try to re-create a feeling they once had, but with no success. Before this sounds too dreary, there is a great deal of very witty observational (of himself) comedy through the dialogue and the whole is backed by delightful video animations by the Daily Telegraph’s Alex cartoonist Charles Peattie.

Despite his getting drunk, lost and unable to find his way back from the toilet, the show all ends on a sort of ‘high’ as He finds one of the original waiters.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor