Dirty Great Love Story
Arts Theatre London
25th January 2017
I am someone who normally does closed-mouthed titters in response to a funny book, a comedy film or a witty joke, but Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna’s completely refreshing ‘Dirty Great Love Story’ had me chuckling hearty ‘ha-ha’s’ out loud. What started as a ten-minute poetry duologue has become a 75-minute two-man rhyming rom-com which boasts slick imaginative storytelling and, above all, innovative and intelligent writing.
Richard and Katie’s bodies collide one night after meeting in a nightclub at a hen party and stag do. Katie (Ayesha Antoine), a festival-loving-wheat-free-dieter-singleton, is still nursing a broken heart after a break-up with You-Know-Who, and considers the awkward occasion to be just another one night stand – whilst geeky Richard (Felix Scott), a desperate bacon-loving romantic, sees a future with Katie through his rose-coloured spectacles. Via dirty curses and dirtier verses we are told a love story in a way truly exciting to the ear, from drunken bus stop dances to stolen breakfasts and taking chances.
Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott are credible conversational storytellers, evidently unperturbed by the huge responsibility of communicating a story in almost full rhyme with little room for improvisation in a moment of complete mental lapse. Both Antoine and Scott are versatile performers as we see them transition from the protagonists (named after the two writers) to portraying other characters such as Katie’s nasal best friend – CC, and Richard’s gormless mate, Westy; from the beginning we are made to feel a part of their friendship groups as they break the fourth wall by addressing us directly, as if we have been mates for years and are meeting for a G&T. With the help of Pia Furtado’s direction, Antoine and Scott bring the characters and scenarios painted in Marsh and Bonna’s verse to fruition, without the visual aid of multiple costume or set changes. The set design by Camilla Clarke is minimalistic but effective with the use of strings of lights, a garden parasol and two stools, allowing us to concentrate on the most prominent aspect of the piece – the writing.
Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna are undoubtedly gifted poets who have created an unconventional and modest script which tickled and enthused me. ‘Dirty Great Love Story’ is a word casserole, seasoned with imagination and barely a drizzle of cliche. The story of an awkward one night stand blossoming into romantic complications isn’t the most original concept, and the ending can be guessed from the first couplet, but ‘Dirty Great Love Story’ is sweet-natured and is told so inventively, making it no surprise that it has had the success it has – winning a Fringe First award for new writing. With Bridget Jones undertones and the animated performance from Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott, it is hard not to be swept along with its poetic hilarity. After all, aren’t each of us searching for or holding on to that one person who will love us for all the quirks and perks that we can offer?
So, put ‘Notting Hill’ back in the cupboard and bookmark your copy of Shelley and Keats. Instead, get yourself to the Arts Theatre to see ‘Dirty Great Love Story’, running until 18th March 2017.
Photos from Richard Davenport for The Other Richard