Review: Love, Loss and Chianti (Riverside Studios)

Christopher Reid’s poems are staged in the newly reopened venue

Rebecca Johnson and Robert Bathurst in Love, Loss & Chianti
Rebecca Johnson and Robert Bathurst in Love, Loss & Chianti
© Alex Harvey-Brown

A pair of Christopher Reid's poems which muse on the various states of love are presented at the newly renovated Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Though incredible pieces of writing, one has to wonder the reason for choosing to stage them, as at times the performance tends to dwindle and lack in theatricality – it's essentially a poetry reading with some walking around.

Reid's poems were written just days after each other, with the first – A Scattering – about his late wife's (the actress Lucinda Gane) illness and subsequent passing. Though dealing with a sad subject, Reid's words ensure to focus on the happy times of the relationship, such as remembering holidays or events with the family. Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet) takes on the role of Reid, the male counterpart of the poem, sincerely performing Reid's words (of which there are a lot, as Bathurst takes the majority of the text). However at times he seems unsure of what to do with his body, and there are several moments of unconfident pacing back and forth.

Jason Morell's direction is subtle – perhaps too much at times – working in tandem with Charles Peattie's animations which are projected onto the back wall. From mazes to strands of hair falling out, Peattie's minimalist animations highlight Reid's text, giving places and actions to what is, at times, a sluggish script. This works much better in the second half – A Song of Lunch – which Reid describes as "pure comedy", and lifts the mood significantly, being much more suited to the stage.

Sadly Rebecca Johnson's roles as the women in the poems don't lend her much to do. In A Scattering, her character is only present for a short amount of time, while in A Song of Lunch her role as the ex-flame sees her standing and pouting centre stage wile Bathurst's character describes her. It's very much written in the male gaze, and can be quite uncomfortable to watch – as well as being a waste of Johnson's acting talents.

It's hard not to commend Reid's award-winning writing; there is a reason his poems are loved by many, after all. It's lovely to hear them spoken aloud, but unfortunately this production doesn't give much lift or reason to them being staged.