“We used to be civilised, you know.” (Tilly)
Nagy’s debut opened in Liverpool, but hopped half the length of the country onto the Royal Court stage within two months. As almost an act of teleportation, a knight’s gambit, the abruptness of the transfer could be a realworld reflection of Weldon Rising‘s indistinct drift. She’s often tagged as ‘lateral’ – situations rather than narratives, carousels rather than rollercoasters – and her distinguishing characteristics are apparent from this first production. This is less surprising when one realises it was written after her second and third to be produced (‘Butterfly Kiss’ and ‘Disappeared’) but, again, such shuffling fits her elliptical style. What follows contains plenty spoilers…
“I hear someone say: FAGGOT. I always hear that word when it’s said. Always.” (Jaye)
If the background is perennially out-of-focus,her characters possess a concision of expression. Natty, for example, is one half of a same-sex relationship uncomfortable with his orientation (or at least the stereotypical culture surrounding it): “They’re not my peers. I own a small business. I have customers. I’m not political. They’re your peers…You can dance. I can’t. You know I look like Peter Lorre in M when I dance.” The partner to who this is addressed, Jimmy, is rather more secure: “Maybe I’d like to hold your hand. Walk along Eighth Avenue and spit at passers-by…The boys don’t believe me when I say I have a lover. You ought to prove I’m not a liar.” If the relationship feels like a losing battle – Natty replies, “But I am a liar. I’m pathological. I lie about everything. I crave it” – they muddle along happily enough in their own way. Then, in almost the play’s first movement, Jimmy is meaninglessly murdered via a stranger/street flashpoint which sparks from nothing (Natty splits as it gets serious).
“What was it like? To see him die. I didn’t. See it. I should have.” (Natty)
Tilly and Jaye, also lovers, live overlooking the murder scene, and witnessing it comes to obsess them somewhat: “We witnessed a horrible crime and we’ve responded by becoming criminals ourselves…We watched him from above. We thought we were safe” (Tilly). Meanwhile, the temperature of the outside world is continually rising at a freakish pace – the repercussions of centre-stage violence punctuated by increasingly nightmarish news reports (“…a Greyhound bus bound for Lincoln, Nebraska melted within seconds of entering the Holland Tunnel. Current Central Park temperature a hundred and sixty-seven and RISING”.) The play’s resolution doesn’t retreat into fantasy, but it does defy realism, cause and effect. It’s a magic ritual.
“We did watch him die. The sky split open. The temperature rose. And nothing’s been the same since.” (Tilly)