Mango Dollies

Bobo and I dragged ourselves out of our homes to visit Books Actually late last Friday night when the bookshop was doing a crazy open-for-24-hours thing. We were there in service of Ms. Pooja Nansi, one half of the hilariously-named Mango Dollies, which hilariously-named duo was performing that night. MD is a poetry-and-blues double act. Pooja reads poetry, Anjana Srinivasan sings the blues, magic is generally created. Pooja and I have only properly hung out once, but ours is a sort of kindred liking, and we like each other very much. I like her even more now that I’ve heard her poetry, read with such generosity over really great music, much of it singer-songwritten by Anjana herself. 

It was a special night because I’d recently had such a consistent slew of soul-destroyingly bad theatre that being so beautifully sung to, artfully spoken to and generally being galvanised to a state of overflowing communal emotion, I felt the most nourished and inspired than I’d been for a long time. It was a series of poems and songs about a terrible sort of love– the kind that pours out of a hole in one’s heart: self-doubting, yearning, ravenous and always terrified of confronting its absence, of running out. Many feelings.

Oddly enough, one of the poems in a set of otherwise contemporary stuff and originals, was this one by Tennyson. Odd because I’ve always been quite allergic to the gushing lyric quality of his poetry, but spoken with Pooja’s raspy… gravitas.. and layered over Anjana’s pained-heart singing, there was something truly awesome about it. Particularly in the line “all my wooing is done,” which has a powerful sense of a major threshold being crossed, not necessarily for the better because all the radiant sunshiney imagery going on at the same time acknowledges a fore-knowledge of the entropy of passions, the dimming of light.

Entropy is a major point of interest for me now because I’ve been thinking a lot about the songs of Edith Piaf for a project I’m working on with Sing Theatre for Piaf’s 100th Anniversary next year. I’m curious about the burning passion in her songs, a vision of love that is all-consuming and bleeding-out-of-a-hole-in-a-heart way. It’s a frightening sort of love, one that you see fizzle off (or sublimate?) over the years rather than froth on and on and on. I think there’s something scary about the death of passion, and the question for me is whether or not the process is more purification– into something more stable, solid and sublime—than entropy. I’ve always wondered if Piaf and Marcel would’ve stuck it out had Marcel not died so tragically early in their relationship, if her songs would’ve lost their incandescence, if she’d have stopped singing; or if she’d have broken it off in search of someone new rather than stick around in something that was no longer fire-hot and blinding.

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