Dirty Great Love Story @ London’s Arts Theatre


Starting out in 2010 as a ten minute piece performed in the back room of the pub by Marsh and Bonna, Dirty Great Love Story has developed and evolved in length and location, in venues including Vault Festival, Edinburgh, Latitude, Bristol Old Vic and Soho Theatre. Now, directed by Pia Furtado and in its full eighty minutes at The Arts Theatre, London, this good natured and vivacious production is a bright glow in a gloomy January.

The story of Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, the writers of the piece, is now performed by Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott, who have an enigmatic charge between them, banter flying as seemingly casually as rhyming dialogue can. Knowing winks with the audience add to the familiar edge, monologues and dialogues interspersed throughout, those dialogues often being of the bickering kind. Camilla Clarke’s square stage is sparse, only decorated with arrows pointing in different directions, like a game impossible to find an answer to.

As it sometimes seems in the navigation of life and love. The two first meet in a club—embroiled in the sticky stag/ hen do hideousness—and a drunken one night stand starts a round of run-ins at parties, christenings, hangovers, weddings, hook-ups, booze filled festivals, and babies. Somehow, they just never quite get it together. Dirty here doesn’t just mean sex, although there’s plenty of that. It’s the emotions, rejections, pressures, misunderstandings, confusion, grimy muddle of everyday relationships.


Scuppered by Katie’s self absorption and inability to move on from her evil ex You Know Who, Richard’s idolisation of Katie, who he calls ‘the girl with the eyes’, and their interim relationships with Matt Priest—the Rich Asshole with a voice ‘like a seal who went to Eton’—and young, lithe Linz, they never quite get it together. All the characters are played by Antoine and Scott, including Katie’s posh best friend CC and her gratingly irritating voice, and foul mouthed horror Westie, Richard’s laddish northern pal. Their brisk switching between roles is active and vibrant, and sees them moving about the set as bright lights pulse and loud club tunes play. The juxtaposition of the imaginary ensemble of characters to Katie and Richard makes our star crossed couple seem even more charming.

Some of the characterisation and plot is a bit clichéd, but that’s part of its magic—laughs from the audience come strongest when they identify with what’s happening on stage, be it the ‘boozes, box sets and benders’ that Richard finds comfort in, or Katie’s plan to dance to ‘shake off pain and a man.’

For every hapless hopeful or weary lover out there, Dirty Great Love Story is a fun and pleasing ninety minutes of smiles. The girl with the eyes and the guy who needs glasses finally see sense and one another. It doesn’t matter that they’re over thirty, or that it wasn’t love at first sight. That’s what the real world is like—dirty and all the better for it.

Dirty Great Love Story runs Monday- Saturday 7:30pm, Thursday & Saturday 2:30pm, 18th January- 18th March. Find out more at the Arts Theatre’s website

Filed under: Theatre & Dance