THE glorious romance of Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud set the template for every skinny-assed, would-be libertine who ever ended up propping up the bar of any self-consciously scene-making rest home for beautiful losers. That latter-day wasted youth should latch on to such a nineteenth-century ideal as that espoused by a pair of blood-sucking poets speaks volumes about how utterly retro, if a whole lot more literate, most pop culture is today.

Stewart Laing's Untitled Productions has concocted a very private view of Verlaine and Rimbaud's private lives. Utilising a script by Pamela Carter, Untitled dissects the affair through a series of bathroom liaisons, witnessed by an audience of 30 from the balcony of a purpose-built stink-pit.

For the audience, straining to take in every nook, cranny and tangled limb below, it's a bit like clambering astride a public toilet cubicle and getting off on the illicit activity below.

From love-lust at first sight to obsession, claustrophobia, growing pains and, for Verlaine at least, obliteration by domestic torpor, down the pan is where it's at. Especially when Madame Bovary is used as toilet roll.

At times, such is the abandon, gay or otherwise, of Robin Laing and Sam Swainsbury giving it their all alongside Kate Stannard as Verlaine's wife Mathilde, things feel like Withnail and I without the laughs (a good thing), but with a whole lot more frankness.

For all its blood and bodily fluids, though, this is a surprisingly conventional poke around poetic sensibilities. Strip away the novelty staging, and, ultimately, Carter and Laing have created a love story, with all the doomed, self-destructive streaks inherent (or more often courted) by wannabe artists intent on crashing, burning, and, hopefully, coming out the other side.