Spring Awakenings: Love Loss and Chianti @Riverside London

Death and desertion are on the menu in Love Loss and Chianti. A dramatisation of the poems A Scattering and The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid. Grief and fantasy are explored at first for drama and then for comedy. It’s not always successful in the translation from poetry to stage. But watchable for the performances and staging at the Riverside Studios.

The first half, A Scattering, was Reid’s response to the death of his wife, Lucinda. Told in four parts, with the first part written while she was still alive, the poems won the Cost Book Prize in 2010. But on stage, it feels cold and unengaging. Perhaps there are too many distractions with events as the stages of dying, death and loss are explored. It might have been more engrossing if he just sat on a chair and told to the audience.

Fortunately, things pick up in the Song of Lunch in the second half, which is centred around a man’s attempt to connect with an old flame over lunch. Memories conspire to build a fantasy that bears little resemblance to the reality. The anticipation, the missed cues and the misunderstandings are deployed to witty effect as the lunch veers from one disaster to another. The projected animations by Charles Peattie portray a dizzying array of complexities as the man becomes lost in himself. And the lunch becomes a battle of epic proportions between the mind and reality.

As the man, Robert Bathurst, who is on stage for most of the ninety minutes is engaging as both the grieving man and the fantasist has-been. Rebecca Johnson plays his dying wife and the increasingly disgusted object of his luncheon obsession.

Directed by Jason Morell, Love Loss and Chianti is at the Riverside Studios until 17 May. Worth a visit to take in the magnificent views of Hammersmith by the riverside.


Photos by Alex Harvey-Brown

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