Interview with Dirty Great Love Story's Felix Scott & Ayesha Antoine
Love stories on stage may not be particularly rare, but it's not often that you see a realistic and less idealistic version of love presented for entertainment. Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna's Fringe First Award-winning comedy Dirty Great Love Story promises to be exactly what it says on the tin. Far from a traditional rom-com, this skillfully written and astutely performed two-hander explores the often overlooked side of love, that real-life side which we have all experienced at some point.
“Put it this way, it's not 'Love Actually'” laughs Felix Scott, the affably funny and instantly likeable actor who is bringing the role of Richard to life in this new production at the Arts Theatre. “Don't get me wrong, I like 'Love Actually', but it's not that. It's more 'in-yer-face rom-com', it's unapologetic in its truthfulness, it's very clever in its word play and its depiction of everything that goes with it.”
I meet Felix and his equally engaging co-star Ayesha Antoine in the break of what sounded like a fast-paced and exceptionally funny rehearsal a week away from the show's first preview. “It's been very collaborative, it's been very warm” Ayesha explains about the rehearsal process to date. “What's been joyful is that we can take on a lot of the work that's already been done on the show and we can build on it. You get to a point in rehearsal where you've tried it over and over again then you put it in front of an audience. There's only so much learning you can do in the rehearsal room. I'm enjoying staring at Felix's face but I'm looking forward to seeing 300 other faces too.”
As with any comedy the piece can only really take off when it gets in front of an audience and both Felix and Ayesha are incredibly excited, if a little daunted, at taking the piece to the next level.
“I always tend to rehearse as though no one will find it funny,” Felix explains. “Otherwise bits that you think are funny, when you get to it it'll end up as dead air. To have the experience of Katy and Richard to tell us what has gone down well before, we have some signifiers about what has gone down well. It'll be nerve wracking, but if it flies it could be great.”
The play itself has already proved to be a hit with audience, developing from a 15-minute single scene performed above a pub to a full blown critically acclaimed production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012.
“A lot of this has been about fitting us into this play and us taking on these characters and the story” Ayesha explains. “The verse is what made it stand out for me. That's how I came to acting, through poetry, from when I was very very little. Learning poems and reciting them – I've always had a joy of words, how you can explain something in poetry that really resonates more than prose or naturalistic dialogue. It's extremely challenging but I'm a sadist!”
“It's clever that it's a love story but it shows love for what it is” continues Felix, “it can be complicated, messy and I think to have these two characters playing different characters as well helps to tell many stories. The path of true love is never easy and I think that's what it highlights.”
Told primarily in verse the play focuses on two main characters but both actors find themselves challenged by playing a number of different characters within the piece as a whole to give a wider perspective on the term 'love'.
“It's hard – switching between those characters quickly” Felix states. “We're at that stage now putting it together and picking it apart to make it now work as a whole.” “The nature of the storytelling is quite different” Ayesha continues, “we can built our word and create it throughout that time.”
Despite having previously been performed elsewhere, and originally by the writers, this production has been allowed to exist almost a new entity entirely.
“In any show that's been done before you take the best bits from it and try and build on it”, Felix explains. “The director has allowed us to explore the writing as much as we like and throw our ideas at the wall. She's directed the show before but she's allowed us to bring our own thoughts. There's been a lot of laughter, and that's how it should be. The structure of the show is so impressive, I think the writing is really beautifully put together. In order to weave the story, the jokes, the pathos of these characters into a 75 minute piece, one act straight though, it's quite special. You can watch it and have a great time, you're not with these characters for three hours, but hopefully you'll be thinking about them afterwards.”
In talking about her main character, Kate, Ayesha explained how the play's universality helps audience connect to the themes and key message.
“I think she's incredibly universal – she's a young woman who has just come out of a long relationship and I think she's a bit lost. She's just hit 30, she has no idea what life has in store for her. It's an exciting place to be but it's also incredibly frightening and daunting. I like that we see both sides of her – scared and lost but also someone who is really open to love and being loved. The traditional kind of rom-com is often a bit cheesy and sterile and safe, what I love about our story is that it's very real – it's how people go from a one night stand. It's not all about flowers and roses the next morning, it's very awkward and confusing. I think we really dig into those not so glamorous parts of falling in love.”
And does the piece try to show a different side of love, I ask, or at least offer a different perspective to what audiences usually encounter? “It's the dirty parts of love” Felix replies, “it's not simple, it's not straight forward and it's not clean. Love means different things to everyone, it can be different for each person. I think it's achingly funny! I read it and went 'I've been there'. The stuff that they've written about I know I've been in those situations. I think that's why I'm confident that other people will attach themselves to it.”
“It doesn't matter if you're in a relationship, not in a relationship. If you've ever been in love, if you're done with love, if you don't want to be in love – this will cheer you up” Ayesha concludes. “If you like amusing, present day, funny real theatre and you have around 75 minutes to spare and you want to have a great time – come and watch our show,” Felix continues. “You're going to walk away with a smile on your face. If love interests you and you want to come and experience a story about love then this is the show for you.”
Dirty Great Love Story runs at the Arts Theatre from 18 January 2017.