Words by Simon Button
Bernadette Robinson is so sensational in Songs For Nobodies you leave the theatre pondering why she isn’t a huge star.
The Australian performer is as versatile an actress as Meryl Streep, nailing accents and mannerisms with transformative ease, and a singer whose range is phenomenal.
The simple but very clever conceit of this show written specifically for her by fellow Aussie Joanna Murray-Smith is to imagine meetings between ordinary-ish women and some of the greatest singers of all time.
Thus we get a restroom attendant being serenaded by Judy Garland, a backing singer joining Patsy Cline on stage, an English librarian having a close encounter with Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday singing the blues for a newspaper writer and an Irish nanny bumping into Maria Callas on a cruise ship.
It’s a one-woman show so Robinson plays everyone in it and she gives a virtuoso masterclass. As the so-called nobodies she’s poignant and funny and as the five famous singers she’s uncannily good without ever descending into slavish imitation.
To nitpick a little I didn’t quite buy her Judy Garland, which seems a little too restrained when she ought to be rocking the rafters of the Ambassadors Theatre where the show is playing after an acclaimed run at Wilton’s Music Hall.
But her Patsy and Piaf are spookily spot-on, as indeed is her woozy and wounded Holiday.
Robinson saves Callas for last, unleashing an astonishingly powerful soprano that makes you wonder if there’s anything she can’t do. And while the play’s ending is a little too abrupt, the whirlwind at its centre is truly mesmerising.
Songs For Nobodies is at the Ambassadors Theatre until February 23rd. For great deals on tickets and shows click here