Poets Lenni Sanders and Jasmine Chatfield give us the next guest blog on our theme for Monday’s event, In Retrospect, introducing their new spoken word play: Nuclear Roommates.
The title of our play ‘Nuclear Roommates’ is a cute little riff on the idea of nuclear family: it’s also a spoken word piece for two voices. It’s relevant because ‘Nuclear Roommates’ is about being together – in a terrible new world, and looking back to the old world, half-remembered.
The idea of the nuclear family as the ideal social unit is already outdated: heteronormative and based in conservative thought. In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you can imagine social ties and society in general might easily disintegrate. A nuclear family would not be a sufficient unit in which to replicate the past or maintain any semblance of normality. Then what chance would nuclear roommates have? Even less, although our characters are trying as best they can to hold onto what is already lost. It may seem that looking to a potential future for our inspiration is entirely the opposite of looking back, but as indicated by the title our play looks arguably more to the past.
Nuclear holocaust fiction, as a genre, stemmed almost entirely from the fears of the Cold War. Writers had long envisioned some kind of all-powerful device that would threaten humankind with extinction, but it was only after the invention of the Atom Bomb and the subsequent tensions that it was a real possibility. Many people thought that a nuclear holocaust was an inevitable outcome of the nuclear arms race. The introduction to Martin Amis’ ‘Einstein’s Monsters’ is an essay strongly for nuclear disarmament as well as a moving discussion of those living in the nuclear age. He says that nuclear weapons “make me feel as if a child of mine has been out too long, much too long, and already it is getting dark”. These are the fears that we draw from for ‘Nuclear Roommates’, or rather the after-effects of these fears in a world where the worst has already happened.
Not only are we looking to the fears of the past in ‘Nuclear Roommates’, but the characters themselves are looking back at the world that was, and everything that they have lost. Their only moral compass in this bleak new world stems from the memories that they have of the obliterated past. In a way, our characters are stuck in the past, unable to move on. Riggs clings to the principles of science, even if scientific discovery is all but useless in a world without the resources to carry it out. Her housemate Salter is a compulsive hoarder, collecting useless debris and trinkets she finds in the abandoned house they now inhabit. In different, conflicting ways, they are both obsessive and scared, but above all rooted firmly ‘in retrospect’ of their lost world.
‘Nuclear Roommates‘ is written and performed by Lenni Sanders and Jasmine Chatfield, and directed by Jack Nicholls. We hope you enjoy our 8 minute preview of ‘Nuclear Roommates’ at First Draft on February 16th.
See Lenni and Jasmine perform an extract of Nuclear Roommates at The Castle Hotel in our In Retrospect event on Monday (16 February)