Dirty Great Love Story review at Arts Theatre, London – ‘a feel-good show’
Dirty Great Love Story has got bigger and bigger. Starting out as a short poetry two-hander in a pub backroom, it grew in length and won acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. Now, it’s hitting the even larger Arts Theatre in London.
This time, the show’s writers and original performers – Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna – have stepped off stage and given their personas as ‘Richard’ and ‘Katie’ to Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott to wear.
It’s fascinating to watch the play without the small electric charge of the characters and actors sharing names. Richard and Katie were always creations, but re-casting them lays that bare. It strips out that little sliver of borrowed reality.
From their first drunken encounter, at a stag do and hen do collision, to the various mishaps and misunderstandings that keep them apart, these characters’ conundrums owe a country-sized debt to the contrivances of British romantic comedy.
Director Pia Furtado keeps the bare stage buzzing, switching up Antoine’s and Scott’s positions as they swap between Richard and Katie and their best mates (stock Northerner and up-for-it posh woman). A film soundtrack-style playlist scores their lives.
Antoine and Scott have nice chemistry and comic timing. You’re happy to root for their characters. However Marsh was a better physical fit for Richard’s awkward, man-child nerdiness.
Marsh is a former London poetry slam champion and Dirty Great Love Story is packed with unexpected rhymes and deft comic imagery. These are the best, most inventive element of a feel-good show that beats a well-worn path.
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