Bryony Lavery is a prolific playwright, and has written some well-known, cracking plays that are lyrical and evocative. Her play Nothing Compares to You, however, isn’t that well known, yet it’s just as powerful as her more well-known ones of recent years. First performed in 1995, the University of York’s third year Writing, Directing and Performance students have revived it for a few nights as part of their final practical assessment.
Nothing Compares to You revolves around a bunch of characters who we see gradually connect to Mary, the main catalyst of the play who starts everything off. We see her in the aftermath of a car crash, and it isn’t long before we’re taken on a journey through a series of scenes depicting love and loss experienced by the other characters in the play. We learn how they connect to Mary, and through a solid blend of comedy and tragedy we learn about what it is to be human and the consequences of losing control of what you love. To guide us on this journey, Lavery introduces the mythical Fylgias – spirits who guide us throughout life and into death – to interact with the audience and assist in the setting of scenes, as well as represent the emotional states of the characters.
Having studied the play throughout my first term here at York, I’ve noticed how much stuff there actually is to consider when staging such a frantic, often fast-paced production. However, I’m pleased to report that the cohort that’s staging this production has done a fantastic job: the majority of the characters are well developed and sharpened, developing strong connections with the audience and evoking equally strong emotional responses from them. The puppeteers behind the mysterious Fylgias are also excellent, and they playfully convey the themes of love and loss in the piece in a powerful manner, through detailed motifs and physicality that engage the audience during and in between scenes. There are a few moments that I thought got a little bit lost in the frantic action, particularly one character’s death in the amalgamation of the final few scenes, but on the whole the whole production ties together very nicely.
This is further helped out by the fact that the set is also beautifully designed, with careful consideration being taken with regards to how the characters can manipulate it to emphasise what they’re communicating to the audience. It’s easy to navigate, and this makes it easy to focus on the well-executed scene transitions marked by changes in light and sound effects. The scenography of the piece is what really makes it memorable and powerful – and it makes the journey that the company takes you on even more exciting.
Nothing Compares to You is a powerful and interesting play to begin with, and offers a company an array of exciting opportunities in how they can translate it into performance. The third year cohort behind this staging of the play have done a brilliant job, and they’ve created a powerful piece of theatre that communicates important messages to a contemporary audience.
Nothing Compares to You is one of the productions staged by the University of York’s third year Writing, Directing and Performance students. For tickets and more information on upcoming productions, see the University of York website.