Review: Dirty Hearts, at Old Red Lion Theatre

Refreshing comedy explores the convoluted relationships of two 30-something couples

Thursday, 14th April — By Lucy Popescu

Dirty Hearts

Small but perfectly formed: Dirty Hearts

DIRTY Hearts promises to make no mention of Covid, Brexit, Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. Instead, Paul Murphy’s engaging comedy (with a dark edge) explores the moral dilemmas of two 30-something couples.

It opens in September 2024. Ben (Pierro Niel-Mee) and Laura (Isabel Della-Porta) tell their friends Simon (John MacCormick) and Julienne (Allegra Marland) that they’ve got back together. Julienne is aghast. She’s convinced they are making a mistake and has no qualms telling them so.

Ben, a wealth manager, has been unfaithful, and Julienne believes he’s not to be trusted. But why is she so invested in their happiness?

Murphy’s bittersweet, layered play about love and betrayal tracks back and forth in time uncovering the flaws in their relationships. We see Julienne (an art appraiser) first meet Ben when he asks her to authenticate a Renaissance painting owned by one of his clients.

Julienne introduces Ben to her single friend Laura, a doctor, and they hit it off. Meanwhile, kind dependable Simon, who works in conflict resolution, is an old university friend of Laura’s. One can’t help thinking they might all be with the wrong partner.

Julienne and Simon appear to be rock-solid, almost smugly so. Gradually though, the cracks begin to appear and we realise that the friendships between the four are a little more tangled than we had initially thought. Who can be trusted and who is the genuine article?

Dirty Hearts is simply and effectively staged by Rupert Hands and boasts a terrific cast. It’s refreshing to see a small-scale production punching above its weight and a rare luxury to forget what’s going on in the wider world and spend 95-minutes immersed in other people’s convoluted relationships.

Until April 30

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