SONGS FOR NOBODIES
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE FEBRUARY 2012
'Due to public demand' this is a short return season of this astonishing , magnificent performance by Bernadette Robinson. If you haven't already,book now. If possible Robinson's incredible performance is even better than before and will totally dazzle you.
Directed by Simon Phillips this play was written by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith
specifically to showcase the extraordinary talent of Bernadette Robinson.It is very funny in parts , with a biting wit ( one character describes another as having ' the imagination of a paperclip ') and is at other times very poignant and moving.
The premise of the show is five wonderful monologues by 'nobodies', insignificant women, all from different walks of life and nationalities who tell us the stories of their brush with fame.
There's the ladies cloakroom attendant , Bea ,who fixes Judy Garland's torn hem...an unrecognized singer, Pearl, working as an usher at the theatre, when suddenly Patsy Cline beckons her onto the stage and gets her to do back up vocals - on the day of Cline's untimely death .. a hot-shot junior journalist, annoyed at having to write banal, trivial articles struggles to make her interview with Billie Holliday work.. the frightfully prim and proper British librarian who tells us about her annual trip to pay homage to Piaf who saved her then teenage father imprisoned for joining the French resistance and finally the nanny who dreams of marrying into luxury but realizes that it hasn't brought Maria Callas much happiness.
Robinson wears a classic 'little black dress' with a tailored jacket throughout.The jacket is sometimes draped/removed/shrugged on/held to distinguish between scenes and characters .Mesmerizing and enthralling ,the five characters are subtly but sharply differentiated with their individual drinks, facial and body expressions and voices. ( Tea with lemon, whisky, cocktails with an olive.. )
She ranges effortlessly from lilting Irish to sharp American twang,crisp British and Parisian French among others. She segues seamlessly with amazing control, change of tone and accent to bring to life each 'nobody' and leading singer.Cline is presented as a 'captive of her own ambition' , struggling harshly with fame as are most of the others. It is also an analysis of the search for happiness and the problems of being famous (or not) .Holliday is first presented as silent and aloof but then sprawling and relaxed.Haggard Piaf has hands like stars . From the husky,smoky blues of Billie Holliday ( ' Strange Fruit', 'Ain't Nobodies Business If I Do') we jump to the dark velvet of Callas' soprano ('Visi d'arte 'from 'Tosca ') .Her thrilling Piaf gives you goosebumps ( 'Non.je ne regrette rien' ) and her Judy Garland ( 'Come Rain Come Shine' ) and somewhat brighter, lighter sounding Patsy Cline ( 'Crazy' ) are jaw dropping .
Andrew Bailey's sort of art nouveau/art deco set design is all in a rather drab grey. There is a tiny kitchenette on one side,stairs with platforms the other. A screen discreetly hides the fabulous band lead by Ian MacDonald .(Special mention must be made of the very cool hot jazz saxophone in the Billie Holliday segment .)
As I said last time - poignant ,enthralling and bittersweet this is mesmerizing theatrical magic.
Running time 90 mins straight through no interval
Songs For Nobodies
Sydney Opera House
3-19 February 2012
Starring - Bernadette Robinson
Author Joanna Murray-Smith
Director Simon Phillips
Assistant Director Gary Abrahams
Musical Director Ian McDonald
Set and Costume Design Andrew Bailey
Lighting Kerry Saxby
Sound Design Tony Love