|Arts & Culture Network|
|Love, Loss & Chianti opened at the newly reconstructed Riverside Studios in Hammersmith on 25 February 2020. |
Love, Loss & Chianti was forced to close by the coronavirus epidemic, but Robert Bathurst and his production team are planning a revival on the strength of the good reviews it was able to attract during its few weeks at Riverside Studios. Timing, venue, etc, are of course unknown at this stage.
The show is the brainchild of its principal actor, Robert Bathurst. Bathurst, known to a wide public for his work on television, most recently as David in the Manchester-based series Cold Feet, is in fact one of those actors who flourish to their fullest extent on stage. He has immediately commanding and inexhaustibly watchable stage presence. Following the grand tradition of the actor-manager, he both conceived LL&C, as I shall lazily continue to call it, gathered the team that would collaborate on it, worked tirelessly to promote it, secured backing for it, and is now starring in it.
Robert and I first met at the Dovedale Literary Festival. There, I saw what a supremely gifted professional he was, taking a script presented to him at the last minute and producing a flawless performance straight off the page. If ever I needed an actor to read words of mine, I thought, he would be the one. Not long after that, the BBC decided to do my book A Scattering as an afternoon play on Radio 4, and, to my surprise – writers seldom having a say in such matters – I was asked whom I would like speak my poems. The answer was obvious.
LL&C consists of two books, A Scattering and The Song of Lunch, paired theatrically as a double-bill. The first is a collection of laments, written in response to the illness and death of my wife, the actress Lucinda Gane; the second is a darkly comic verse narrative about an unhappy encounter between ex-lovers in a Soho restaurant. Robert was one of the first readers to discern what the author had in mind: that the two books are intimately related, the second being a version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, that eternal account of the finality of death and the presumptuous futility of wishing it were otherwise. Also, as in Ancient Greek dramatic practice, tragedy, or ordinary human sadness, is followed by comedy, or broadly farcical human behaviour.
The rôle of my wife in the first half, and of the irretrievably lost lover in the second, is taken with tender and moving effect by Rebecca Johnson. Director Jason Morell has found ingenious ways of translating words from page to stage without the bathos of literalness. Charles Peattie, celebrated for his deft drawing of the Alex and Celeb comic strips, has provided animated projections. The design and technical team are discreetly masterly.
Watching my words rising from the flatness of print into three-dimensional embodiment has in itself been a moving experience. Words never designed for stage performance have been granted a new life. The author sits in the audience, surprised to find himself with a tear in his eye at one moment, laughing out loud at another. He wants the whole world to see what he didn’t at the time know he was writing.