Dirty Great Love Story Review

Arts Theatre 25 January – 18 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

According to writers Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, “Love stories are good, but the great ones are dirty”. Well, they’re right – Dirty Great Love Story is a fantastic, filthy and sweet show. Originally a much shorter poetry duet, this award-winning play boasts engaging and instantly recognisable characters, in situations that lots of the audience will have experienced shamefacedly.

From the moment Ayesha Antoine (Katie) and Felix Scott (Richard) walk onstage with an engaging turn off your phone shtick, they have the audience in the palms of their hands. Katie and Richard then tell their own versions of the story of how they met, and the two years that followed. From a drunken one night stand after hen and stag dos, through awkward encounters at friends’ barbecues, weddings and christenings, misunderstandings and lost chances are portrayed with cringeworthy honesty and charm.

Antoine is spiky and defensive as Katie at first, still reeling from the ending of her last relationship, but the crumbling of her defences is handled brilliantly, showing the loneliness beneath. Antoine morphs into posh and brashly honest best friend CC with a flick of her hair, creating a wonderful character straight out of AbFab. Scott is charming and loveable as hapless Richard – the moment he finally makes a big gesture is fantastic, and his completely unromantic proclamation of love is just beautiful, making you want to stand up and cheer. Scott’s portrayals of best mate Westie – straight from a Northern pub – and pretentious old Etonian love rival Matt are just hysterical.

The poetry is fast and furious, lyrical and heartfelt. The knowing way that the audience is left hanging waiting for the inevitable rhyming insult is handled perfectly by the actors, whose timing and chemistry is sublime. The difference between the sexes is emphasised by Katie’s long, evocative descriptions of a situation, followed by Richard’s matter of fact one word opinion, to huge comic effect.

The set, lighting and sound design is deceptively simple, with a board game like grid lighting up too represent night clubs, saunas and cars to great effect. The sound and lighting are so in tune with the gorgeous language of the play that you don’t take much notice, everything works together to create a joyous, heart-warmingly funny and real love story.

Dirty Great Love Story definitely lives up to its name – this is a date night treat that will have men and women aching with laughter. There’re not many love stories that can do that.