Love, Loss & Chianti @ The Minerva, Chichester
It’s a pleasant feeling to turn up to the theatre with absolutely no idea what to expect. As we arrived at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester last night we knew nothing more about Love, Loss & Chianti than what time it started and that Robert Bathurst was starring.
Well, it transpires that this is a pair of pieces, devised for the stage by Bathurst and adapted from the work of poet Christopher Reid, that appear from his performance to be as personal to the actor as they are to the writer.
Our first half is A Scattering, Reid’s deeply-personal and intensely moving long form poem that won the Costa Book of The Year prize in 2009. Written in four pieces and performed by Bathurst as a monologue set to discordant violin and cello, it details Reid’s emotions as he comes to terms with the loss of his wife to cancer. It’s powerful stuff; poignant, touching and at times darkly funny in a way that can only be born out of personal tragedy. Reid’s dense, verbose style comes alive in Bathurst who embodies perfectly the resolved grief of one slowly coming to terms with the empty, quiet house full of memories around them and the loss of the person who brought the brick and mortar to life.
I write now in the cumbersome
you lived in the present-future
a tense of your own invention….
Can’t you now somehow contrive
to be both dead and alive?
Act Two is a different beast altogether. The Song of Lunch is the tragicomic adventure of a copy editor who sneaks out for a lunch date with an old flame. He seeks to rekindle lost love with a visit to a Soho Italian restaurant he hopes will still serve Chianti in straw-wrapped bottles places on tricolore table linen.
Soon it becomes clear, in the way things do only when you open the second bottle of wine, that this may not have been the best of ideas. Old arguments resurface, threatening to overshadow happy memories…
Bathurst once again narrates throughout, with occasional interjections from Caroline Faber as the beguiling blast from the past.
In all, this is a fascinating adventure, a glimpse into the passions of a singular actor and the genius of a fantastic writer. Most of all though, as the gentleman next to me points out as we chat during the interval: “It’s so nice to see something different, something that feels a bit unique and special!” This is certainly that. I doubt you’ll see it appear on (or anywhere near) a West End stage, it probably wouldn’t appear anywhere other than Chichester (or one of the scattering of theatres with similar ideals around the UK), but it’s all the more enjoyable for that!