Tag Archives: Jason Morell

Love Loss and Chianti

Love, Loss & Chianti


Riverside Studios

Love Loss & Chianti

Love, Loss & Chianti

Riverside Studios

Reviewed – 28th February 2020



“Director Jason Morell gives the staging a rhythmic, choreographed feel”


The poet, Christopher Reid, has always been surprised at his own success. To top that, he has even said that his Costa Book of the Year Award for “A Scattering” came with ‘an element of almost grief. Of ruefulness that winning was borne of what was the worst tragedy in my life’. This poem, succeeded by “The Song of Lunch” comprise the two acts of “Love, Loss & Chianti” which bring them both to heart-breaking and heart-warming life in two magnificent performances from Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Johnson. Both poems are quite different in style but they both share the same theatricality that makes the journey from page to stage inevitable.

“A Scattering” is Reid’s elegiac poem written for his wife, the actress Lucinda Gane, who died of cancer. It sounds morbid, but it is beautifully expressed. The opening lines an evocative description of a deathbed vigil; uncomfortable and brutally honest. “Sparse breath, then none. And it was done.” Bathurst’s delivery is at once colloquial and emotional; filled with humility but positivity too and, at times, touches of comedy. Starting with their final holiday together in Crete filled with sunshine and the knowledge that this is the last, it journeys through the subsequent death, loss and process of grief. The decision not to present this as a one hander is inspired, and Johnson adds a poignant dimension not just as the late wife but also stealing lines from the poet’s consciousness and claiming them back as her own. The terrible moments of morphine-induced ravings are chilling. Director Jason Morell gives the staging a rhythmic, choreographed feel which has the actors coursing the stage, separating and coming together again like dying swans.

Reid started writing “The Song of Lunch” the morning after “A Scattering” was finished. As an antidote it has the feel of a light farce and although probably equal in length it feels much shorter than the first act. There are moments of pure comedic genius interspersed with sharp observations. Reid is describing an ill-fated reunion with an old flame in a Soho Italian restaurant that fails to live up to the expectations of his wistful yearning for better days. Bathurst is a book editor and failed author while Johnson is his former lover who left him to marry a successful novelist fifteen years before. There is a touch of Jeffrey Bernard in Bathurst’s performance – echoes of his immersive production in the Coach and Horses last year – which highlights the strands of sadness beneath the string of witticisms and wine fuelled slips of the tongue.

Two contrasting pieces, but united with meticulous care by the creators. Charles Peattie’s animated projections tastefully complement the spoken words, paying homage to the silhouette animation of Lotte Reiniger, especially in “The Song of Lunch”. The evening is as far from a poetry recital as is possible. Reid’s poetry is vivid and theatrical, and Bathurst is clearly relishing the role of bringing them to a wider audience. When he first told people he was doing a poetry show, they said “Oh really?”. Being exposed to verse is often an off-putting prospect. Bathurst has turned that on its head and clearly demonstrated that Christopher Reid need not be be surprised at his own success. Judging by the reaction to “Love, Loss & Chianti”, nobody else is. Any reservations are soon dispelled, and you will watch wide-eyed, if not always dry-eyed.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown


Love, Loss & Chianti

Riverside Studios until 17th May


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Persona | ★★★★ | January 2020


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Don Carlos – 2 Stars

Don Carlos

Don Carlos

Rose Theatre Kingston

Reviewed – 7th November 2018


“passionless, tedious, and incoherent”


Friedrich Schiller, renowned German writer and radical member of the ‘storm and stress’ movement, is not unfamiliar to British audiences, with a well-reviewed production of “Don Carlos” starring Derek Jacobi and Richard Coyle hitting the West End as recently as 2005. “Don Carlos” is a prime example of Schiller at work: passionate, witty, and brimming with revolutionary ideas about freedom and power.

Despite some cool aesthetics and apt use of lighting however, this version, produced by Tom Burke and Gadi Roll’s new theatre company Ara, is passionless, tedious, and incoherent. In terms of plot, ‘Don Carlos’ takes place around the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War when Dutch provinces began fighting to free themselves from the rule of Spain and its king, Phillip II. Prince Don Carlos’ former lover recently married his father, and his declarations of love for his new stepmother kick start various court schemes to dispose of prince on one side, and to rebel against the king on the other. How can freedom be won from tyranny, and who will be left to pick up the pieces?

Robert David MacDonald’s translation – first staged in 1995 – retains the lyricism and wit of the original at times, but in an effort to be ‘accurate’, unfurls absurdly long and convoluted sentences that feel foreign to this contemporary audience. If Roll had been able to perhaps adapt the text to his liking, he may have produced a more engaging and better flowing piece of theatre, allowing the vital themes to shine through without the 18th century linguistic baggage. Furthermore, the actors visibly struggle with this text. Scenes become shouting matches, the actors whipping out lines as fast as they can hoping to create pace and energy but instead just becoming unintelligible. In the verbal carnage, meaning and nuance is lost.

Although Rosanna Vize’s design, forcing light in actors faces up close and personal, neatly reflects the accusatorial and inquisitorial nature of the plot, the general direction and staging is confused and inconsistent. A dark stage with all actors dressed in black or navy makes the events seem timeless and contemporary but is a dull and monotonous visual choice. There is an obvious desire for pace, and yet scene changes are laborious and slow down the action – it’s a stripped back setting, so why so many chairs, tables, beds? Actors are often stood in parallel and remain there scene after scene. Roll’s sound design, an odd mix of sentimental strings and tension building drums, intrudes obtusely into conversation without any obvious purpose and becomes both distracting and another thing for the actors to shout over.

Burke and Roll have been ambitious, admirably seeking to create stylised drama that goes beyond “the naturalism of television and film”, but they still have much to learn to ensure style does not trample over substance. Be rougher with the classics and don’t allow acting to come second place to design. As a Germanophile, I found this very disappointing.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by The Other Richard


Don Carlos

Rose Theatre Kingston until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde | ★★ | February 2018
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | April 2018


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