The Unmarried - Edinburgh Fringe 2017
In the flurry of shows I raced around London in the latter part of July to review under the general banner of ‘Edinburgh Previews’, there was one I missed (well, there were others, of course, but I was particularly interested in this one). As I’d missed a previous showing of The Unmarried earlier in the year at Camden People’s Theatre, to have also missed the pre-Edinburgh show at The Bunker Theatre near London Bridge, was slightly gutting. So, as the London theatre press review machine takes a breather over August the bank holiday weekend, I trekked up (or, to be precise, sat on a Virgin Trains East Coast train for four-and-a-half hours) to Edinburgh. It’s a long way to go for one show, so I saw five others as well (or ten, if the six comedy acts in the late night variety show ‘Spank!’ were to be counted separately). Rather crazily, as I decided not to stay overnight because I didn’t want to pay the high hotel rates for a room during the Fringe, I was back through my front door just shy of 24 hours after I had walked out of it, partly thanks to an early morning British Airways flight from Edinburgh to London Gatwick. I hate being away from home that much.
Not all of the tunes that form the soundtrack (yes, soundtrack, not cast recording – this isn’t a musical) were familiar to me; that I knew any at all came as a pleasant surprise, as I’m someone who is usually so out of touch with the sort of music that gets played in plays, nonplussed while much of the rest of the audience around me nods along appreciatively. Here, songs like ‘I Luv U Baby’ by The Original (lyrics include “I love you baby, I love you baby / I love you baby, I love you baby / I love you baby, I love you baby” and “I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i / I love you baby / I love you baby”) and ‘The Rhythm of the Night’ by Corona, pulsated through the narrative in a seamless production that, if anything, is a little too polished and perfect alongside the many rough and (un)ready Fringe dramas.
Luna (Lauren Gauge) narrates her own story, flanked by singer Georgia Bliss and beatboxer Haydn-Sky Bauzon. While undoubtedly feminist, it’s also very nuanced, and stands out in having a plotline that is celebratory of womanhood but without wittering on about periods ad infinitum, and recognising that not all men are shit. The language is often poetic, with rhythms and linguistic sharpness comparable to the musical theatre songs of Lin-Manuel Miranda, packing in so much narrative in relatively few words. The sound levels are just perfect, resisting the temptation to pump out these ‘club classics’ any louder than is strictly necessary.
There are elements of the play that will be relatable to many people, such as the stresses and strains of moving into a new property. At the same time, such an event is clearly unlikely to happen to people who are part of Generation Rent, a term apparently coined by the journalist Tim Walker, and I wonder how many people in such circumstances will really agree that having a London property to call their own is a good reason to vent frustration. Anyway, the salient point, it seems to me, is that the mortgage and settling down with a long-term partner anchors Luna, at a time of life when she still wishes to be free.
Why, indeed, should things be done according to general societal expectations? Consider the raised middle finger on the show’s main marketing image, a statement of defiance against the status quo. As ever with one-person narratives, everything is seen through a single perspective, and it would have been interesting to consider how ‘Pete’ felt, from Pete’s viewpoint. Though some further character development wouldn’t go amiss, this is a strong and triumphant piece of theatre.