Dirty Great Love Story – Arts Theatre, London

Writers: Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna
Director: Pia Furtado
Reviewer: Deborah Parry

A bloke once said the ‘course of true love never runs smoothly’ and, hundreds of years later, Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna bring us a play which illustrates that this is still very much true and that exploring the subject on stage still entertains.

tell-us-block_editedThe plot of Dirty Great Love Story is pretty straightforward – Katie has recently been dumped by her fiancé and, reluctantly, has to attend a friend’s hen do. Richard is at a stag do in the same venue (happens sometimes), they’re both not having the time of their lives, they’ve both had a few too many, they both decide to have drunken sex with each other and then a back and forth (a la Friends’ Ross and Rachel) will they, won’t they ensues.

Richard is a decent bloke – a tad hopeless romantically but that makes us root for him even more and Katie is a bit defensive but that’s what happens to many of us when we emerge from our 20s into our 30s as the dating equivalent of the walking wounded. We really want these two to get together, they might not be a match made in heaven (unless we’re referring to the nightclub) but what is so endearing about this play is just that; it captures an honesty about dating – that two individuals are, actually, seldom perfect for one another but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be together (perhaps Mr or Ms Right Now could actually end up being Mr or Ms Right).

Much of the success of a two-hander like this rests on the casting and, in this case, actors Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine do a terrific job of playing the entire ensemble and are entertaining, engaging and endearing in equal measures throughout. There’s something Andrew Lincoln-esque (of Love Actually fame) about Scott, he isn’t a doppelgänger physically but there is a huge resemblance nonetheless (including a similar likeability factor). Antoine illuminates the stage and impresses with her focused energy and ability to metamorphose from character to character in a way that makes each of them equally imaginable.

Set design and props are minimal but that’s absolutely fine – everything rests on the writing and the delivery of it and both keep us engaged without unnecessary clutter on stage. There is something screenplay like about the script and sound and lighting are reflective of this; not being overly theatrical, which works well – allowing us to focus on the acting and not adding any unnecessary distractions.

A girl meets boy story is so familiar on film but seldom do we see such simple, yet effective storytelling on stage. Dirty Great Love Story isn’t always as laugh-out-loud hilarious as one might want a comedy to be but the writing is sharp and witty, with characters that are believable and likeable, so anything it lacks is forgiven. And don’t be deceived by the title, the play isn’t anywhere near as sordid as it suggests but don’t be too disappointed because the rest certainly applies.

Runs until 18 March 2017  | Image: Richard Davenport

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Sharp and witty

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