Purportedly a comedy, purportedly a dark one, there’s no evidence of that in Christopher Reid’s verse piece about a middle-aged man meeting up with an old flame at an Italian in Soho, The Song of Lunch.
Reid’s verse piece got turned into a mournful, wistful TV drama with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in 2010, and had a theatrical outing at Chichester a couple of years ago.
Here Cold Feet star Robert Bathurst plays He. It’s a charming and amiable performance. Bathurst dances a lovely dance between the metre of Reid’s poetry and the natural rhythm of speech.
But it’s all a bit insubstantial. Reid’s writing is frequently overwritten, which sometimes he can pass off as a quirk of the character, himself a poet and not a very good one.
But when we get yet another ponderous description of a breadstick it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a failing of the author or the character – it doesn’t change the fact that we’re having to endure it as audience.
Rebecca Johnson plays the lusted-after love interest, previously this man’s partner and now married to someone else. She sits in her chair most of the time trying not to look too entirely lacking in agency.
Charles Peattie’s lovely black and white drawings, like 2D cutouts, are projected on to the back wall. They’re minimally animated and beautifully drawn.
On TV it seemed intimate, even experimental. In this broader theatrical form it loses that edge completely.