Edinburgh review: The Unmarried (Underbelly Med Quad)
The half-rhyming story runs at the Edinburgh Fringe until the end of the month
Poetry slam meets tequila slammers in Lauren Gauge's fast-paced monologue. It tells the story of a binge-drinking, bed-hopping student called Luna, who has a sassy, unabashed joy in refusing to be well-behaved. But then "fun f**k" Pete turns into 'The One', and Luna slowly seems to settle down, in all senses – only to realise she's settled for something she doesn't really want.
The Unmarried is accompanied by a banging soundtrack of '90s garage and dance tracks, recreated live with beat-boxing from Haydn-Sky Bauzon and smooth vocals from Georgia Bliss; tracks like "Rhythm of the Night", "Flowers" and "A Little Bit of Luck" whip the audience up nicely. Although they find their groove, both performers initially seem a little awkward navigating the tiny space – not something you could say about Gauge, who embodies Luna with balls-out confidence right from the start.
Her sparkly lycra outfit matches the manic twinkle in her eye and the velocity of her performance-poetry style delivery, as she recreates the highs of a good night out, the dancing and pulling and shagging – but also the rush of falling in love, of making money, of buying a house. Fizzy, potent and hyperactive, Gauge is the performance equivalent of the DVRB her character downs (that's "Double Vodka Red Bull" for those who didn't deploy such an acronym during their own university days).
Of course, such a concoction isn't to everyone's tastes. Gauge's half-rhyming storytelling is steeped in the familiar cadence of a thousand earnestly hip spoken word nights, and while delivered with real swagger will no doubt also bring some people out in hives. Similarly, beatboxing retro chart hits are either ideal Fringe fun or shoot-me-now, depending on your appetite for late-night '90s nostalgia.
The Unmarried also strains to elicit that much sympathy for Luna: her fierceness is fist bump-able, but the angst in her long-term relationship is a bit cry-me-a-river. The sex gets dusty and dutiful ("what is love without lust? All bread, no crust"), and she feels hemmed in by being a homeowner; initially overjoyed at buying "their baby", the house demands loads of time and attention. While Pete is up for spending every weekend doing DIY and gardening, Luna would still rather party. Maybe in the pre-crash era The Unmarried is presumably set in, this would've seemed a legitimate whinge – but it's hard to expect Generation Rent to perceive owning a house in London in your mid-twenties as a millstone rather than a miracle. And I suspect any actual parents in the audience will be thinking 'try having a real baby…'
Nonetheless, Gauge's writing is sharp on the way society pressures us to follow certain preordained paths, and on the zesty liberation there can be in refusing to do so, in breaking free. I'll drink to that – although you better make it a single.
The Unmarried runs at Underbelly Med Quad until 28 August, 10.35pm.