Ambassadors Theatre, London – until 23 February 2019
Bernadette Robinson offers up a vocal masterclass in this highly engaging show.
There is so much to say about this beautifully thought out and extraordinary play (with songs of course) by Joanna Murray-Smith that not only captures the spirit of the women that performer Bernadette Robinson brings to life but also those who admired them.
Songs for Nobodies is partly about five extraordinarily talented women Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Patsy Kline, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas – but is also about the women who admired them and were inspired by them. It is a show about dreams, hope, loss and reflection that really touches the heart.
Intertwining monologues from ordinary women with some excellently selected pieces of music by the five of the most admired singers of all time, Murray-Smith gets right to the heart of why each of the singers meant so much to each individual through some thoughtfully written stories.
There is no weak monologue at all – five very different characters telling their own story and relationship to each singer in a very individual way. But throughout, each story is bittersweet to the point that the audience can practically hear a pin drop as they take in each tale. Particular stories that hit the heart hardest is Beatrice Ethel Appleton’s encounter with Judy Garland on the night of her Carnegie Hall concert in 1961 and Edie Delamotte recounting how Edith Piaf helped her father escape the Germans.
Directed with great sensitivity and respect for the material, Simon Philips keeps the production relatively simple, allowing all of the emphasis to be on the characters and the singers themselves. But it also feels intimate, thanks to Justin Nardella’s simplistic design, shrouded in black to keep the show focused, while Malcolm Rippeth’s extraordinarily effective lighting design captures and highlights every emotion that is expressed through Robinson’s performance.
Throughout it all, Bernadette Robinson offers an extraordinary performance as each character, delivering a self-assured and warm approach to each individual character that is lively and engaging to watch throughout. Vocally, she really captures each singer’s vocals perfectly and with utmost precision – listening to her renditions of ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ and ‘Crazy’ for example send chills down the spine. The way in which she is able to transform into each character is so subtly done but is so well interlinked that the show is wonderfully fluid from start to finish.
Overall, Songs for Nobodies is a wonderfully intimate and entertaining show with extraordinary vocals and stories that capture the heart. A truly wonderful way to spend ninety minutes.
By Emma Clarendon
Songs for Nobodies continues to play at the Ambassadors Theatre until the 23rd February.