First seen seven years ago in a pub, Katie Bonna & Richard Marsh’s Dirty Great Love Story has been through several phases on its way to the West End. What was a 10-minute poetry duet is now a 90-minute two-hander play, and is at the beginning of a limited run at the Arts Theatre.
It is a very modern love story that follows the ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship between Richard & Katie. As hen & stag do collide, the pair share a drunken night together before going their separate ways in the cold light of day. However, fate conspires to bring them together in the form of their best friends coupling up. Every now & then they have moments that suggest they might be perfect for each other, but will their timing ever coincide?
Written as part narration & part action, the verses roll off the tongue quite naturally. The silliness of some of the rhymes add to its quirky charm; they are chosen carefully, which keeps the laughter coming & doesn’t make it feel awkward or forced. Above all, it possesses an honesty that is appealing & instantly relatable – there is no sugar-coating to make it into a typical rom-com, instead it lays our embarrassing behaviour bare. Also welcome is the short pre-show scene shaming audience members into making sure their phones are well & truly switched off.
The set is simple, yet effective; Camilla Clarke’s design (alongside Mark Howland’s lighting) allows the story to unfold effortlessly, with moments highlighted to great effect. From a practical point of view as well, the set up is well thought out: the platform on the stage is angled so it is higher towards the back. This means even a short person like me can see pretty much everything that happens – in spite of the woeful raking & seating layout in the Arts Theatre!
Ayesha Antoine (Katie, CC) & Felix Scott (Richard, Westy, Matt) are a dynamite pairing. They both have an instinct for comedy, from facial expressions to comic timing, and have no issues with doubling up their roles. Voices aside, you can easily recognise Matt from his swagger across the stage, and CC from her more ‘handsy’ approach. They are an absolute joy to watch & really make the story fly by in an hilarious hour & a half.
My verdict? An honest, but ultimately heartwarming, love story that’s big on laughs & brilliantly put together – undoubtedly a must-see production.
Dirty Great Love Story runs at the Arts Theatre (West End) until 18 March 2017. Tickets are available online and from the box office.