Simon Ward reviews Dirty Great Love Story at The Arts Theatre
This is a joy from start to finish. From the moment Richard (Felix Scott) and Katie (Ayesha Antoine) amble on before the show to subtly remind us to turn off our mobile phones (or at least airplane mode) their charm is irresistible. During the course of the show, as with every romantic comedy, there are moments when they drive us mad, but they remain essentially lovable throughout.
This is the story of Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna. Literally so in the original Edinburgh production when the two playwrights also played all the parts. These performers are so good that you never feel short changed. They play everyone: themselves, a best friend each and a love rival each. The characters are well delineated by accents and demeanour – posh for her best friend and ‘other man’, Northern for his best friend; his ‘other woman’, hilariously, barely makes an appearance.
The play is written in verse. After a while you stop noticing unless there is a particularly tricky or interesting rhyme but the overall effect is endearing – the moment when they first spot each other in the club is heightened by the language, and the banalities of thinking of something to say are emphasised still further by having to say it in verse. It also adds to the interest of an evening which is after all just two actors on stage with minimal props and lighting – though it is worth looking out for the witty disco floor effect.
The initial setup is that they are both at stag and hen parties, which bump into each other. As they are the only singletons in each group the pressure is on for them to get together. Which they duly do. Only to wake up, wondering how it happened and what the hell to do next. Run away, obviously. And keep running and then almost-not-quite getting together again as they continue to run into each other at festivals, parties, weddings and christenings, sometimes getting together, sometimes not. The timing never quite works until they finally get to have their very own balcony scene.
It is a nice irony that while these comedic possibilities are playing out, their best friends are simply getting on with the business of having sex, falling in love, getting married and getting pregnant, not necessarily in that order. They may be dim, but they know a good thing when they see one.
It made me laugh throughout. It is painfully, shockingly true about relationships and sex and lots more besides – it’s one of those shows where you want to go back to catch the bits you missed from laughing too hard.
Our heroes go to bed together several times in the course of the evening but we know that they are really in love on the one occasion that they don’t have sex – a drunken Katie throws herself at, and then throws up over, Richard, and he loves her all the more. In spite of all the sex, it is only at the end, surrounded by a neon heart held together with sticking plaster, that they finally kiss, to the audible relief of the audience.
It’s a dirty great play all right and running at around 75 minutes there is plenty of evening left for you to pursue your own DGLS in Soho’s bars and restaurants afterwards. Forget La La Land, get to Dirty Great Love Story instead.
Dirty Great Love Story runs at The Arts Theatre until 18th March 2017
Richard Marsh & Katie Bonna
Ayesha Antoine & Felix Scott
Director – Pia Furtado
Designer – Camilla Clarke
Lighting Designer – Mark Howland
Sound Designer- Richard Hammarton
Casting Director – Ellie Collyer-Bristow
Production Manager – Tom Nickson
Company Stage Manager – John Pemberton
Deputy Stage Manager – Edwina Allen
Producer – Tim Johanson
Assistant Producer – Célia Dugua