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Latitude 2013

Dirty Great Love Story

Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh

Genre: Poetry-Based Theatre

Venue: Theatre Tent, Latitude Festival


Low Down

The tale of two hopeful, hapless romantics who get drunk, get it on and then get the hell away from each other. Fusing poetry and prose, it is an achingly funny tale that asks, can a one night stand last a lifetime?


This is basically a romantic comedy told through performance poetry. It has all the elements; attractive, quirky leads you can relate to, romance, unrequited love, funny supporting characters, frustrating near-misses and ivy-climbing up to a balcony. Yet, despite these potentially formulaic elements, Dirty Great Love Story is original and witty – helped by the fact that all narration and dialogue is spoken as poetry, which gives it rhythm, cadence and depth that would not have been found in a prose script.

It tells the tale of Katie and Richard (also the writers of the piece, so how true to life this story is becomes an interesting question), who had a one night stand, and then kept meeting, liking each other at different times, breaking each other’s hearts, and finally, thankfully, falling in love and possibly living happily ever after. (And I don’t feel as though I have ruined the show for you by revealing that, because surely the very fact I likened this to a romantic comedy confirms that a happy ending is on the cards.)

The script is witty, it is relevant and it is true to life. It charts the uncertainty and self-loathing that comes with waking up next to a stranger, the hurt that comes when you see the person you fancy with someone else, and the desperate pull towards motherhood that kicks in for the over 30s. The laughs and general appreciation from the audience suggested that the play appealed to many people (not only those in and around their 30s), which I think is because it was so honest and raw, but with the Bridget Jones edge which made it eminently watchable.

The characters of Katie and Richard were well crafted and complex. Although Richard was not ‘classically handsome’ (his own words, not mine), I found his character so honest and appealing that I could entirely see why someone would fall in love with him. Katie was also great – self-deprecating, realistically selfish, and making the sort of mistakes that we have seen being made 100 times in our own lives and those of our friends. The only slightly unbelievable/overblown characters were the best friends of Katie and Richard, Westie and CC. Westie was a brash Northerner, who whilst believable was a still bit overdone. CC was a very posh home counties girl, who though amusing, seemed a bit stereotypical, and whose language of ‘yah, yah, totes babes’ was just a bit too much to stomach at times, made her seem very one dimensional, and could definitely have been toned down.

The staging was simple, two bar stools comprised the only props, and this worked well – it was all about the words, and the relationship between these two people, and what they did onstage was fairly incidental. This was a play that has a very specific audience, and which is very much about first-world problems, but then what romcom isn’t? It doesn’t profess to be anything other than a ‘Dirty Great Love Story’, and it manages to fill that role very well.