Monday, 18 March 2013

Theatre review: Dirty Great Love Story

I've said before that ever since the wonderful Midsummer, Soho Theatre seems to have been trying to repeat its success with other quirky romantic comedies. Fringe First winner Dirty Great Love Story may be the closest they've come yet to replicating that magic, without the music but with plenty of rhyming couplets. Co-writers Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh play characters also called Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh, who first meet and have a one-night stand when her friend's hen party ends up in the same club as his friend's stag do. In a hotel room the next morning Richard is smitten while Katie makes a run for it. Things should end there but on the same night two of their best friends also got together, and as things between them start to get serious, Richard and Katie keep getting awkwardly thrown together, but never at the right time to give anything more than friendship a chance.

After a bit of an uncertain start, Pia Furtado's production soon gets the audience on-side with the clearly made-for-each-other pair and rooting for them to see past each other's bravado. The story's opening somewhat flips the gender stereotype with the man keen to pursue things further and the woman the one who does a runner after sex; but when the latter gets the same treatment from someone else, it gives her a chance to reconsider Richard. Unfortunately over two years of weddings, christenings and being sick at music festivals, whenever one of them is single, the other always seems to be in a relationship.

Dirty Great Love Story is a very funny 85 minutes, the writers' beautifully observed comedy matched by their likeability, Marsh's puppyish cuteness sparking off Bonna's more highly-strung alter ego. They also break into a couple of other characters as the story demands, most frequently the mismatched pair of friends - him a pint-swilling Manchester lad, her a txt-speaking trustafarian - whose relationship keeps bringing the central couple into contact with each other. The no-frills nature of the show, the two in casual clothes narrating their lives, is one that even lends itself to a big setpiece romantic gesture for the conclusion. Getting as many "awww"s as laughs, this is a funny, feelgood show, and as Ian said on the way out, as if that's not impressive enough they do it all in verse.

Dirty Great Love Story by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna is booking until the 30th of March at Soho Theatre Upstairs, then continuing on tour to New York.

Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes straight through.

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