Luke Das, Thursday 21 June 2012
I am sat in the Members’ Bar at Battersea Arts Centre watching Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna read from their scripts.
At the other end of the room director Pia Furtado and producer Polly Ingham are unable to contain bouts of laughter. As the sole member of the audience I am also taken by their exchange of wordplay. I cannot wait to see this evening’s preview of their latest production - Dirty Great Love Story.
Before the rest of the audience filter in, Richard tells me all about his early days of performance poetry. ‘I got into poetry right here in this building. At the BAC they do scratch nights, which is an opportunity for new artists and performers to bring their work to the stage. I did a short piece called Skittles. I had been a playwright for a while but this was my first time performing,’ he explains. ‘When I started getting audience feedback it was fantastic. It felt amazing to have people engaging with my work.’
It is a fascination with literature and the written word that influences Richard’s poetry. ‘I’ve always been a reader. You look at me and you see this rugged outdoors person but actually I would rather read a book!’ he laughs. ‘I tell stories with my poems. The narrative is very important. Everything I write is based on things that I have observed.’
Richard and Katie used to live near each other in Tooting and curry fuelled evenings were the basis for their early collaborations. ‘Writing with two people is harder than writing alone. It is not always easy but we respect each other’s approach,’ he says. ‘Katie is a really good actor. She makes every performance seem so natural. I am learning a lot about acting through working with her.’
After the lights dim and the duo are gifted with a roaring applause, they both enjoy a well earned drink. An audience member later brings Katie a pint of cider and exclaims, ‘I think you are amazing!’ In response she is appreciative and gracious. The young actor is also a writer and an Associate Artist at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. ‘I have recently started calling myself a theatre maker because I don't know what else to call myself,’ she explains. ‘I trained in acting, which is the base of my skill set, and I started writing about four years ago.’
I ask more about her influences and the diversity of her repertoire. ‘I have done a lot of Georgian theatre, the sort of plays that have not been performed for hundreds of years. So most of my acting life has been in a corset, wearing a wig and a big dress!’ shares Katie with an energetic smile. ‘Georgian theatre is very much about connecting with the audience. It is about involving the people in the boxes and stalls with your story.’
The comedic duo’s interplay of humour with real world emotions is impressive and lines seemingly diverge into poetic interludes. It is apparent as writers they both really savour the use of language and every utterance is carefully considered. ‘We wanted to write together because we thought we were very similar stylistically, but it turns out that the structure of our poetry is totally different,’ Katie informs me. ‘So we had to start from square one, find the right story and the right way to deliver it.’
Dirty Great Love Story will be performed daily at 1.20pm at the Pleasance Jack Dome from Wednesday 1st August to Monday 27th August, following London previews at Balham Bowls Club on Wednesday 4th July and the Nursery Theatre on Wednesday 18th July.
For more information about Richard, Katie and Dirty Great Love Story visit: