Etcetera Theatre, London
For my 31st and final show of the Camden Fringe 2019 I headed to the Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town to see Unlovable.
On the surface Carly Jurman’s one-woman show is about Judith, who has reached the age of 30 without having had a relationship. The audience is present as part of an intervention to help identify why Judith is just so unlovable. However, this show is about much more than that.
Judith is a clown (rest assured, not the nightmare inducing variety) and she is immediately endearing as she takes the stage. Combining physical comedy, 1950s dating advice and music, a dead chicken, gin, wine and Carly’s exasperated “voice from the closet” narration, Unlovable is packed full of laughs. Watching Judith prepare for her date, pushing seemingly normal pre-date behaviours to their ridiculous extreme, is a joy. This truly is a comic gem.
As with all great comedy though, it is making a serious point. While I laugh at the 1950s relationship advice Judith is attempting to follow to the letter, I can’t help noticing it really isn’t that different from the nonsense you’d read in a modern magazine. A point Jurman makes explicitly at the end of the play, when she points out that the misogynistic female ideals of the 1950s never really went away, they were simply re-branded.
Jurman is a skilled clown, nailing the many slapstick elements of the show with a fluid and comic grace. I can comfortably say that Judith is one of the most lovable clowns I’ve ever encountered. But as with all clowns there is so much more going on beneath the surface. In the final moments of the show she drops her Judith mask and speaks with a disarming honesty about how she discovered her inner Judith on her quest to be good enough to deserve a relationship. Because that’s how it works right? We have to change ourselves to be worthy, don’t we? Look at all those loved-up people out there, they’re positively brimming with perfection aren’t they?
The comic and the personal meld beautifully in this honest and heartwarming show. It is a shame I saw it on the final night, as I’d happily recommend seeing it. Having said that, I have high hopes that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Carly and Judith. I think they have a very bright future ahead of them, and I just hope it includes finding someone deserving of their love.