JOHN NATHAN

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - THE­ATRE Dirty Great Love Story Arts The­atre Dumb and Dum­ber

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

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