Extraordinary double-bill shows the power of poetry

Robert Bathurst.

Robert Bathurst.

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Love, Loss and Chianti, 
by Christopher Reid, 
Chichester Festival, 
Minerva Studio

A picture may paint a thousand words, but the most powerful form of expression remains poetry.

Rhyme and rhythm are potent keys to unlock the innermost emotions.

So this double-bill, devised for the stage and performed by Robert Bathurst, undertakes its dark journey armed for the outset with the advantage of verse.

But add in the viola and cello in the first half and the most brilliant background animation in the second; and the simplistic combination of music, art and poetry evokes an overwhelming sense of the sublime.

The first part of the evening, A Scattering, confronts the death of a wife through the eyes of her husband. The second, The Song of Lunch, was intended as a contrasting piece of comic farce. But as the author himself admits, the story from its conception was destined for dark places – a doomed quest to find a love once lost.

Yet Bathurst, who dominates the stage, does so with the lightest and most assured of touches. He never allows self-pity to engulf the first, maintaining a steady approach to profound grief. In the second, he rolls self-deprecatingly with the humour, avoiding the pitfalls of overstating a single line.

Caroline Faber as the lost love brings a bitter-sweet warmth and seductive strength to the part.

At first glance, Love, Loss and Chianti may seem a difficult experience for some audiences. But in its magic lies masterpiece too.