Home » London Theatre Reviews » Songs for Nobodies is ‘truly outstanding’ at Wilton’s | Review

Songs for Nobodies is ‘truly outstanding’ at Wilton’s | Review

Bernadette Robinson - photo credit Nicholas Brittain
Bernadette Robinson – photo credit Nicholas Brittain

Having taken Australia by storm, Bernadette Robinson’s story of five everyday women encountering five iconic megastars has its London premiere at Wilton’s Music Hall. In a truly virtuosic performance, Robinson embodies Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billy Holiday, Edith Piaf and Callas, from five different ‘nobodies’ perspectives in Songs For Nobodies.

Bernadette Robinson is an exceptional singer/actress. Not many singers can truly do FULL justice to the instantly recognisable Garland, then transport us to the Grand Ole Opry and country style Cline, to wartime France and the gritty vocals of Piaf, the deep soul and ‘impeccable phrasing’ of Billie Holiday, following them all by the dramatic soprano of THE diva Callas herself! And certainly not all in the space of 90 minutes! Yet Robinson delivers totally believable performances of each of these icons, sounding completely like and instantly transforming into each one of them before our very eyes. Her mannerisms are true and she never slips into caricature, but rather faithfully fully represents each woman as we all know them, heart and soul. Her characterisation, timing and singing are exceptional. Alongside these iconic women, we are also introduced to the five very different ‘nobodies’ who despite their ordinariness are all interesting and remarkable in their own ways. Witty, perceptive, realistic and engaging. As we discover these women and perhaps identify with some, she evokes sympathy and camaraderie for them as well. Kudos to Joanna Murray-Smith for wonderful Playwriting and to Simon Phillips for Direction.

The remarkable transitions from ‘ordinary’ characters to icons are seamless. Childless, jilted Ethel Appleton reflects on advice Garland gives her. Dreamer, star-struck wannabe usherette Pearl Avalon recounts her moment in the spotlight thanks to Cline. Edie Delamotte recounts in perfect RP English, her father’s recollection of Piaf (and switching straight to Piaf’s French!) and so on. And ‘Ordinary’ stories become extraordinary as we discover these new characters alongside Robinson transforming instantly into each iconic star before our very eyes.

Songs For Nobodies is playing a glorious but short, two and a half week residency at the evocative Wilton’s Music Hall in East London, whose very walls themselves hold the stories and personalities of so many famous performers of the past near two centuries. Wearing only a black dress and jacket (designed by Andrew Bailey) Robinson holds the stage and the audience in the palm of her tiny hand with tremendous charisma, superb characterisation and exceptional singing. As the strains of ‘Vissi d’arte’ finished at the end there was a moment of complete pin-dropping silence and then the audience rose to its feet in adulation.

Accompanied by a small band of exceptional musicians led by Music Director Greg Arrowsmith on Piano & Keys, James Pritchard on Drums & Percussion and Oliver Weston on Wind, we are whisked away on a remarkable musical reminiscence. Robinson paints rich, evocative and profoundly moving pictures in deep shades and delicate pastel colours, with her superb acting and beautiful voice.

This is unquestionably an exceptional evening at Wiltons and a masterclass in the art of performance. Classy, sophisticated and supremely accomplished singing. She understands her voice completely and says that “performing Songs For Nobodies is a privilege and a joy”. It is absolutely evident and we the audience are also incredibly privileged and joyous!

Performance is rarely this classy, sophisticated or perfect. Do not miss this special performance here in London. There is a real treasure, excellence and artistry at Wiltons Music Hall this week from Bernadette Robinson – Songs From Nobodies is truly outstanding!

5 Star Rating

Review by Catherine Françoise

Five iconic singers; Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas encounter five ordinary women in the UK premiere of this critically acclaimed one-woman show.

Written especially to showcase the extraordinary talents of singer and actress, Bernadette Robinson, this genuinely funny and moving play by renowned playwright Joanna Murray–Smith (Honour) is directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) and is accompanied by live musicians.

Recounting intimate tales of their brief encounters, Robinson seamlessly brings to life each ‘nobody’ whilst with phenomenal control of tone, accent and vocal style, she thrillingly inhabits each legendary and iconic singer in ‘a performance masterclass’ (Crikey) that has garnered rave reviews across multiple sell-out seasons internationally.

Ambassadors Theatre
7 January – 23 February 2019
Press night: Thursday 10 January, 7pm

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1 thought on “Songs for Nobodies is ‘truly outstanding’ at Wilton’s | Review”

  1. Dear Ms. Francoişe

    I have read your informatively descriptive and complimentary review of Bernadette Robinson’s performance in Songs for Nobodies.

    As a long time admirer of Ms Robinson I am delighted that her debut on the London Stage has met with such critical acclaim

    I have NEVER doubted her talent and outstanding gifts but it is wonderful to know that her work is appreciated as much, if not more, than at home, here in Australia.

    I am thrilled to hear of her outstanding success at Wiltons.

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