★★ | Dirty Great Love Story, The Arts Theatre

CREDIT: Richard Davenport

I’m a bit unconventional in my views when it comes to romance. I strongly believe that sex before the first date is a sensible action (who wants to sit through a tedious meal with a fake smile plastered on your face when you can cut to the chase?) but I also have a secret love of ‘will they won’t they’ romantic comedies.

Slam poetry champion Richard Marsh and writer/performer Katie Bonna originally conceived Dirty Great Love Story as a short pub performance piece.

It evolved into a longer two-hander play and was well received at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 where the writers also performed the piece. Outlining a meeting between gauche and shy Richard and recently heartbroken Katie on a stag and hen do, followed by a one night stand in a Travelodge, the play then goes on to tantalise with an almost/on and off romance, that burgeons in spite of obstacles.

It’s classic rom-com but recited partly in verse.

In this new incarnation at The Arts Theatre, the pair is played by actors with accomplished performances from Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott. This is where the problem seems to lie, though. Maybe performance poetry works better coming from the mouth of the poet and in this case, fails to translate over easily despite the actors’ efforts.

In spite of their skill as performers, the verse feels stilted coming from their mouths and sits oddly with a touch of the painfully twee about it in parts. Yes, they’re sometimes talking about the dirty bits of this relationship, but in a Richard Curtis style romantic comedy format with poetry that sounds like Pam Ayres on a 1980s edition of That’s Life.

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It splutters dimly more that it illuminates and feels tired and dated. Not so great and a tiny bit dirty but a love story nonetheless, there are flashes of brilliance but they feel few and far between.

When the funny moments hit they’re worth waiting for, there’s a clever set by Pia Furtado with bits that drop down and pop up to illustrate various scenes but overall it all falls a bit flat.

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Dirty Great Love Story plays at The Arts Theatre until 16th March 2017

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.