Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: 'Dirty Great Love Story' at the Arts Theatre. 25th January 2017

Last night I felt like the loneliest man in the world. The only thing worse than being trapped watching something you hate is being trapped watching something you hate while all around you a happy crowd ripples with uproarious laughter. I felt like a right lemon, a sour little note in the midst of a peppy pop song, a zit on the face of a supermodel, the first blotches of mould on a nice piece of fruit.

Dirty Great Love Story is essentially a Richard Curtis romantic comedy performed in verse. If I had known this beforehand I would have run a mile - my loathing of this kind of shit is so profound that I've been quoted in Time Magazine. It's your typical boy meets girl, circumstances keep them apart while a bunch of wacky comedy sidekicks burble on, boy gets girl. 

It's not that I don't like romantic comedies, it's just that this particularly southern English brand of self-deprecating middle-class, vote-Tory-but-feel-guilty-about-it, ironic-sexism-but-you-know-they're-alright-lads-at-heart, 'in my thirties but I am still a child at heart oh wait my friends are having babies oh noooo' quasi-humour hits my soul like nails down a chalkboard. And so the night turned into a depressing smear of beery bantering lads (but with hidden depths, honest), sub 90s sitcom archetypes gurgling like plugholes about their sex lives and observational comedy that plumbs the adventurous depths of 'have you noticed there are a lot of fancy food shops in London'.

Not helping is that our star-crossed lovers are a needy little drip and a whiny alcoholic. He spends the entirety of the play wibbling over whether to tell her that he likes her, she (and I can hardly blame her for this) blithely ignores his affections right up until he grows a pair of balls in the final scene and confesses his feelings. She, incidentally, spends large portions of the play as a paralytically drunk amnesiac, a state of mind which made me increasingly envious.

Along the way there's a cavalcade of theoretically relatable misunderstandings like her puking on his cock or him hilariously looking as if he's committed sexual assault on one of her friends. I was actually rooting for their relationship, but only because it's more convenient to avoid these arseholes when they hang around in pairs. 

Massaging salt into the wound is that our romantic hero constantly puts himself down about his looks and his body. This is entirely undermined by casting a guy that looks like this: 

Fair play to Felix Scott, he's a hunky, good looking dude who clearly gets good value from his gym membership - but a shy, average-looking introverted geek he ain't. This makes for some very surreal moments, like when he gestures down at his six-pack and wails "what kind of woman would want this?"  

I guess at least as far performances and stage design go, it's a competent production. No-one forgets their lines, the lighting activates on cue and the 90s indie soundtrack is alright. Ayesha Antoine is also difficult to criticise - after all, she's only following orders.

But enduring Dirty Great Love Story, made my skin want to crawl off its bones, slither off under the fire exit and into the night. If I had been sitting in an aisle seat I would have made tracks about twenty minutes in and made profuse apologies to the PR agency for wasting a comp ticket on me. But no, sat in the centre of the cramped stalls I was hemmed in on both sides. I tried my emergency fallback tactic of trying to fall asleep, but I was so annoyed by the play I couldn't dislodge my brain's power cord.

So I sat motionless and expressionless as an Easter Island statue, dispassionately noting both the gradual disintegration of my soul and a strange metallic taste filling my mouth. By the finale I felt diminished as a human being: alienated by the joy of the audience and increasingly paranoid that there is something very wrong with me. These grinning people can't all be morons, can they? 

Well, if they're happy to glug down this saccharine bullshit...

Dirty Great Love Story is at The Arts Theatre until 18th March. Tickets here.

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