Navina – Pieces

Producer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Navina has released the lovely and languorous new tune Pieces. Here she jumps on the piano with baroque melodies and middle 8s in a song that reminds you that the good times in life come in moments and little pieces. With a spirited vibe and soft ambience, it’s full of charm and a great example of the prowess she promises.

Speaking about the tune itself, Navina writes ‘I wrote pieces inspired by the concept of jigsaws and patience. I think more so than ever, we can try to display a life which has everything figured out on our online highlight reel. We try to find the answers in many different things when in reality, true contentment comes from looking above ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in, towards something greater. If we look back on where we’ve come from, we most often realise that we’ve come much farther than we need to go. Being content is merely just piecing together the good things that each day brings.’

Nadine Shah – Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love)

Nadine Shah has announced her fourth studio album, Kitchen Sink will be released on 5 June via Infectious Music. Along with the announcement she has shared the video for lead single Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love). It’s a song that has a sturdy timbre with nuanced subtely, simmering with a rage that never quite comes to the boil. After slow lingering verses the chorus gets firey and fantastic, all jagged edges and stark contrasts.

Speaking of the track Shah says:

‘My brother was making a comment on sexism when he was younger and made a painting of a man embracing a goat with the phrase “ladies for babies, goats for love”. It always stuck with me, I guess cause it sounded daft but really because even back then I knew its true meaning and intent. I was also thinking about a lot of the songs I would have been listening to at the time, songs I sang along to innocently without question of the meaning. ‘Ladies for Babies’ is a direct response to ‘All That She Wants’ by Ace of Base. I reversed the gender and I poke fun at a husband who expects nothing more from me, as a wife, than to carry his child and perform the role of the obeying subservient trophy wife. Only this time the mistress is a farmyard animal. A lot of my album explores subjects of sexism and tradition. It’s not all about beastiality, I promise.

Measure for Measure at The Marlowe

Measure for Measure holds an awkward place in Shakespeare’s canon. Full of lengthy soliloquies, reflections on life and death, fraught relationships, it also features the comedic tropes of mistaken identities and works its way towards a neat marriage ending. The bawdy jokes abound, but there’s also speeches that wouldn’t seem out of place in Hamlet.

Is it a tragedy, or is it a comedy? It’s a problem play, for sure.

The Duke leaves Angelo in charge of Vienna, where he quickly condemns Claudio to death for immoral behaviour. Angelo offers to pardon Claudio if his sister, the nun Isabella, sleeps with him. Isabella agrees but has Angelo’s fiance switch places with her, meaning that she retains her chastity and virginity. The Duke returns to spare Claudio, expose and punish Angelo, and propose to Isabella.

The Royal Shakespeare Company have set this version in 1900’s Vienna. Moral decay abounds, and the future looks bleak. The play is about the abuse of power, sex, and hypocrisy, and the dark set and moody lighting echo the sombre mood. Of course, it’s easy to transpose the society in which they are operating to our own, something that always seems to work with Shakespeare plays. There’s a universality to them. It was easy to see our own society’s reflection in it, something Gregory Doran must have been aware of.

There’s nothing spectacular about the production. But then that’s not what the RSC were going for. This is a play about justice, morals, and decisions, rather than grand flourishes of drama. There’s more action in the second half, which certainly skips along at a brighter pace. Unfamiliar with Measure for Measure as a text, I enjoyed the complexities and thought it was portrayed well and competently, if not extraordinarily.

It’s part of a season of invigorating Shakespeare plays that burst with contemporary resonance, taking place at the Marlowe Theatre, before continuing on their travels.

Susannah Dickey – Tennis Lessons

Growing up isn’t easy. You feel different, odd. You’re not like everyone else. You don’t belong in this world. Through short vignettes, each a moment in time at a specific date and age, Susannah Dickey’s debut novel Tennis Lessons takes you through the moments that build a life.

Dead pets, crashed cars, failed relationships and family traumas. This exciting books takes us through them all as one young woman navigates the path to adulthood.

Told in the second person, it’s intense, an interior focus that drags you right into the heart of the action and emotion. It’s the character, rather than any plot, which hangs the whole thing together – a clever and difficult move. Spanning twenty five years it’s a novel that looks at how we are shaped by our experiences, each fragment and moment bouncing along, with no clear trajectory in sight at the start. Anxiety, frailty and vulnerability all exist at the same time as nights out and fun with friends, in that juxtaposed way that all lives are built of.

Susannah Dickey is a writer from Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. She is the author of two poetry pamphlets, I had some very slight concerns (The Lifeboat, 2017) and genuine human values (The Lifeboat, 2018). In 2017 she was the winner of the inaugural Verve Poetry Festival competition. Her debut novel, Tennis Lessons, will be published by Doubleday in July 2020.

Carol LaHines – Someday Everything Will All Make Sense

Someday Everything Will All Make Sense, Carol LaHines’ debut novel, is, on the surface about death from choking on a wonton. But what it’s really about is grief, the process of rehealing, and the profound impact that the loss of a loved one has on us.

Luther van der Loon, a harpsichord virtuoso and professor of medieval music at a New York university, is eccentric and already struggling, but he hits a low after his mother dies from choking on a Chinese takeway, and he failed to dislodge the wonton using the Heimlich maneuvere. His long term girlfriend Cecilia offers therapeutic support and discourages Luther’s obsession with sueing the Chinese as a way to assuage his own guilt.

The universality of love and loss flickers throughout the book, which is warm and funny. Luther’s neuroses are painted tenderly, even when he is at his most irrational. His early music obsession offers metaphors for emotions and is threaded throughout the novel, although sometimes a bit too heavily.

Eventually he gets there. But ‘there’ is not portrayed as a destination, rather Luther settles into a life where the wonton incident does not consume every moment of his day. He is able to accept the loss of his mother, and live his life. Because living is all any of us can do.

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