142: Nothing Compares to You

10 Aug

Nothing Compares to You is both a song by Sinead O’Connor and a play by Bryony Lavery. The play is a sprawling, sometimes confusing, piece about love, death and honesty. And about ‘fylgia’ – a word I’d never encountered before and with which I’m now rather enamoured.

woman and book

According to Lavery, a fylgia is a follower and in Norwegian folklore it’s a term used for one’s soul or double. “The fylgia often appears in dream-form in animal shape. If one sees a fylgia while awake it indicates death.”

The play begins with a car accident and a young woman’s soul ripped from her body as it’s cleaved in half. Subsequent scenes show different characters, many of them accompanied by their fylgias, whom they don’t notice. The characters seem unconnected, delivering what appear to be unrelated monologues but, as the play unfolds, the connections become clear. (In some ways rather like a play by Andrew Bovell, or a detective novel.)

MIRIAM: There’s another Gay and Lesbian Disco on at the Pub.
Eee God.
Lasses screaming and lads peeing in doorways.
I’ve signed a petition but there’s still goings-on down my back-passage.

Mary, the young woman in the car crash, has left her girlfriend Lily bereaved and her lover, Rachel, dateless in an expensive hotel. Rachel’s mother Miriam is looking for someone (who turns out to be her missing cat), Helen is Lily’s friend and support, Joy is another of their friends and has a drinking problem and John’s wife has left him.

JOHN: Well, she’s on her way tonight.
Going to live with ‘Tony’.
Comes in last night with matching luggage from British Home Stores.
[…]
And she’ll have to be at Marks and Spencer’s first thing tomorrow …
She’s got no crotch left in any of her fancy knickers!

The first act establishes relationships and lets us see how the characters connect, but the second act is the fylgias. This is where they come into their own and become visible to the characters they’ve been following.

JOY: So you’re not a ghost?
Right.
And you’re not a rapist …
A Jehovah’s Witness
or somebody come to steal my CD …
You’ve got to tell me when I’m getting warm …
Are you a space creature from a higher intelligence than our own come to aid humanity and save it from itself?
No.
Are you a space from a lower intelligence than our own come to … No.

There is sadness and relief from pain and there is the possibility of new love blossoming by the end of the play. And there’s also plenty of Sinead O’Connor.

Publisher: Methuen Drama (published in Bryony Lavery: Plays 1)

Cast: 8F, 2M (could be doubled with 7F, 1M)

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