Awkward. The only word to describe the moment when two bleary eyed strangers wake up next to each other after a drink fuelled evening. That moment is captured perfectly by Richard Marsh andKatie Bonna, marking the beginning of a couple’s trek through the hazy terrains of love.

The formula is easily recognisable: geeky Richard doesn’t have much luck with the ladies. Self-deprecating and boyish he meets Katie in a club whilst at a stag party. Still harbouring feelings for her ex-boyfriend (who can only be referred to as You Know Who), Katie isn’t too impressed with Richard. Fast forward a few hours and the two find themselves exchanging introductions in a hotel room with hilarious consequences.

The play has all the elements of a traditional romantic comedy. After a chance meeting cosmic forces, or rather friends CC and Westy, bring the pair together on numerous occasions. We watch with relish as they navigate their way through the tangled miscommunications, denial, assumptions and insecurities that test their connection beyond the realms of one night. We’re gripped by that itching question: Will they? Won’t they?

Written and performed by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, the dynamic duo fuse drama and poetry; maintaining a punchy pace throughout. Under Pia Furtado’s direction they inhabit the sparse set with energy and verve. Their style is equally warm and inviting as they switch between dialogue and direct address. Marsh and Bonna must also switch between characters, a feat they accomplish swiftly and convincingly, although Marsh’s transitions are occasionally a fraction cleaner than Bonna’s.

Richard and Katie’s story isn’t however, just about love; it’s also about growing up. They’re “on the wrong side of thirty” and watch on as their friends marry and become parents. The simplicity with which Mason and Bonna manoeuvre through this transitional period of their lives only adds to the allure of their story. That and Richard’s attempts to express his feelings towards Katie: “Katie’s put new glasses on my heart.”

Dirty Great Love Story proves a worthy winner of the Fringe First award in 2012. Funny and touching in equal measure, one can’t help but revel in Richard and Katie’s earnest desire for love.

Dirty Great Love Story, Soho Theatre

(Originally published by What’s on Stage Mar ’13)

Amardeep Sohi