IT WAS a relief to see something funny,” remembers a colleague about the time she saw Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna’s twohander when it first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. “There were a lot of Alzheimer’s plays around.” Well, if there was a need, even in the feel-good year of the London Olympics (remember those halcyon days?) for a morale-raising and giggle-inducing tale of modern love then, while this politically neutral theatre column fully respects the decision of the American people to vote in a one-man to vandalise the freedoms of speech, expression, religion and movement that made their country a true — if flawed — rare light unto the nations, then, oh boy, how we need this little heart-warmer now.
A contention: no art form manages to be both so simultaneously high and down-to-earth as theatre. Even where the creators have no intention of resonating outside the confines of their story, somehow a play in a playhouse exists more profoundly in the context of the outside world than does, say, a painting in a gallery or a film in a cinema.
After 9/11 you couldn’t put on a panto without it somehow serving as an antidote to the day the world changed for the worse. It’s the same, a week into the new world order, with this Richard Curtis-like tale of (a different) Richard and Katie which was first born in a sweaty room on the Edinburgh Fringe and now arrives in this slightly airier if intimate West End venue.
It is a tale regaled in verse by the immensely likeable Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott who adopt a kind of rhythmic rap, only without the aggression and with a certain English introspection, on the condition of being single. Each take on both the names and roles of the original co-authors who were also this show’s first coperformers.
Geeky Richard and lovelorn Katie meet in a nightclub. He is doing his best to join in with the alpha-male ritual demanded by his best mate’s stag, while she celebrates a friend’s hen night while nursing the emotional bruises caused by a recent break up. In other words, they are drinking a lot. The result is a one-night stand in which her regret and his panting keenness morph into an unintended courtship during which fate reunites them in a series of barbecues, christenings, music festivals and weddings.
The energy levels of Pia Furtado’s production are not helped by Camilla Clarke’s design consisting mainly of a looping rope of light bulbs, one of which accidentally fell on to the stage with a dramatic scattering of glass. They evoke seaside sadness more than the never-sleeping city life in which the play is set.
But Antoine and Scott inhabit their roles — and quite a few others — with a witty, self-deprecating charisma that keeps you onside and hoping that love will triumph. It has to overcome Richard’s reluctance to extricate himself from the sexless abyss of the friend zone into which this relationship has fallen, and Katie’s broodiness which seems to have elevated every nonserial killer to the role of possible life partner.
It’s a piece the harks back to the will-they-or-won’t- they suspense of via the platonic love of
to bring the love A love story to cheer us all up
Geek meets girl: Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine