Richard Marsh’s solo show is a very funny falling-in-and-out-of-love-story that’s more sweet than it is bitter, though it’s a fair bit of both. Marsh tells the story of ‘Richard’, a man who looks a lot like him, and who falls hopelessly in love and want and need with a girl called Siobhan, who has the two vital attributes he looks for in a woman, being someone who is both beautiful and who also finds him funny.
The piece charts the path of their relationship; they begin by sharing first Silk Cuts then Skittles on the chilly steps outside the office where they both work. Eventually he builds up the confidence to make a move and very soon they are moving in together, camping out on the floor of a cramped unfurnished flat. They dash towards marriage with almost unseemly haste and all too quickly find themselves in the midst of a cinematic American honeymoon, facing the open road together with a second-hand car rainbow-armoured with the titular sweet. But as they light out for the Grand Canyon, Thelma-and-Louising across vast American plains, reality intrudes on their Hollywood moment.
It turns out the US is a pretty big place and that long hours in a hot car will test any relationship, especially one where the couple have yet to fully discover each other’s faults and kinks and tickles. No vibrating roadside motel bed can halt the fall. The way Marsh evokes the gradual erosion of their bliss is deftly handled, the subtle shifts, the slow hardening. The piece becomes a break up story, a verbal essay in the unfolding of hope. Love does not find a way, it ebbs away, evaporates into the hot desert night.
Marsh’s story is told in a poetic stream, his rhymes are rapid and punchy though often economical; he doesn’t luxuriate in lexical possibility, rather the rhythm is the thing, the zing of the delivery, the ding-ding-ding that drives the piece along. The writing is witty – you find yourself laughing both at and with ‘Richard’ – but it’s also often touching and raw, increasingly so as the piece progresses and the Skittles start to moulder and rot.
The ending is an exercise in understated poignancy, a gentle act of looking forward and an acknowledgement that most hurt fades with time. Marsh is a genial performer, comfortable with an audience and confident in his delivery, but the writing is at times lacking in textural variety, the quick, snippy rhythm could stand to be broken up. But his grasp of narrative compensates for this, the story holds tightly onto its audience at the end. And there are free sweets. Free sweets salve all.