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Songs for Nobodies review at Wilton’s Music Hall, London – ‘a singular vocal talent’

Bernadette Robinson in Songs for Nobodies at Wilton's Music Hall, London. Photo: Nicholas Brittain
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Director Simon Phillips saw Bernadette Robinson’s singing at a corporate bash in Melbourne. Mesmerised by Robinson’s extraordinary talent as a vocalist, he immediately commissioned playwright Joanna Murray-Smith to create a theatrical piece for her particular talents.

The result is Songs for Nobodies, a series of five monologues juxtaposing the lives of five ordinary women with the iconic vocalists who inspired them.

The vignettes explore the celebrity effect, and the ability of lives to be transported by a chance encounter. They also provide Robinson with a unique calling-card in the form of a one-woman show, making its European premiere here following acclaimed performances in Australia.

Robinson’s dexterity as a vocalist enables her to recreate the sound of a selection of famous singers. The impersonations are at times uncanny, an effect heightened by Murray-Smith’s deft writing. A Manhattan bathroom attendant has a chance encounter with Judy Garland; a fast talking journalist interviews Billie Holliday and a Nottingham librarian owes her very existence to Edith Piaf.

Robinson’s intense, compelling performance walks a tightrope between cabaret and conventional drama. Director Phillips, perhaps best known over here for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, pares the staging down to a minimum and keeps Robinson at the forefront throughout.

The collaborative process is further enhanced by sound designers Justin Teasdale and Tony Gayle, who between them ensure that not a moment is lost in Wilton Music Hall’s often mercurial auditorium, either from Robinson’s performance or Greg Arrowsmith’s sympathetic musical direction.

Hymn to Love review at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick – ‘a compelling portrait of Piaf’

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A tightly crafted showcase for the singular vocal talent of Bernadette Robinson