Bernadette Robinson stars in ‘Songs for nobodies’, a one-woman show written by Joanna Murray-Smith, making its European debut this week after achieving critical acclaim in Australia.
Set on a raked circular stage, with an elegant velvet drape revealing a live band, there is a distinct simplicity to this staging. Robinson, instead relies on her stellar voice and intricate characterisations to transform us to different eras. From 1960s Kansas- to WW2 occupied France, Robinson transitions effortlessly between each ‘nobody’ and ‘star’ delivering separate vignettes.
Each story retells the account of five ‘nobodies’, who’s lives were impacted by a chance encounter with a ‘star’. From Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday to Maria Callas, Robinson has the vocals spot on- she is truly a tour de force. Matching her impressive vocals were the band led by Greg Arrowsmith who seamlessly moved from country to blues to opera.
A particular moving moment was of the prissy Nottingham librarian, who reveals that her father was a prisoner of war in a camp that Edith Piaf “The Little Sparrow” visited. Towards the end of her concert, Piaf and her band were ushered out by guards, in which her father saw his opportunity and ran through the door with them saying “M’aider”. In a split second, Piaf and her band did in fact decide to help and thrust an overcoat and violin at him, he was put in a car with Piaf as one of the band and escorted out of the camp to safety. This truly incredible story was finished with a provoking rendition of ‘Je ne regrette rien’.
For a masterclass in range and characterisation, this show is an absolute must see.