The Unmarried is an exercise in staring life’s expectations in the face: a young woman attempting to plot her course, despite the way life has of trapping her in its rhythms and demands. Set to a backdrop of garage music, this is a blast of energy, but intelligent and thoughtful too – a must-see.
It’s like entering a club. Re-Rewind is playing (yes, that Craig David song), lights are flashing, there are even shot glasses lined up onstage. The cast of three arrive – cue slo-mo dancing, live singing and beatboxing – before Lauren Gauge explodes into action as Luna, eighteen, coming off a break-up, out to party, get pissed, and have sex. Luna tells us “Tonight will be dangerous,” and it’s some time before there’s room to breathe again.
Of course, things don’t quite turn out as Luna plans. Her chosen one-night-stand turns out to be genuine, “highly unfashionable conformity”, even husband material.
There’s an incredible intensity, but that doesn’t mean there’s no light and shade. The play (also by Gauge) is in verse. The rhymes can be hit and miss: if they hit they’re funny, sharp and insightful, and if they miss, well, they’re knowing and charming. Gauge is mesmerizing, clad in leotard and leggings for a big night out. She is defiant, both in her unabashed interest in sex and her determination to do things her way, but suggestive of enough doubt to make her rounded and sympathetic.
The music drawn from the UK garage scene creates much of the energy. Georgia Bliss and Haydn-Sky Bauzon are credited as Singer and Beatboxer, but are so much more than this. As friendship group, alter ego and chorus, they are involved in all the dancing and physical theatre, and provide much of the energy and attitude – and there is attitude to burn. Their changing influence during the play marks Luna’s development.
The initial energy does dissipate, but so does Luna’s; she gets older, she has more commitments, a job, two jobs, a flat. The play is interested in what happens to her as she drifts from the hedonism of university into a world of routine and commitments – the treatment of their flat as their baby is very funny and will strike a chord with anyone stretching for the bottom rung of the property ladder – and how those commitments can creep up and constrain your life without you ever deciding what you want.
You may not agree with Luna’s decisions, or how she manages her relationship – do they never just talk? But that’s to criticize Luna and not the play, and the fact I want to enter into conversation with a character shows how real Gauge has made her. It’s Luna’s life, and she wants to live it fiercely and honestly.
There is a lot going on in The Unmarried, and it all comes off. This is the freshest, most exciting play I’ve seen this year. What I want to know now is – where’s the Spotify playlist?