Review | SONGS FOR NOBODIES (Duet Productions)

Featuring the immensely talented Bernadette Robinson, returning from a sold out season in London, this show by Duet Productions is simply mesmerising.

Staged in the Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, under the direction of Simon Phillips, Songs for Nobodies is a series of five vignettes featuring five ‘nobodies’ and their encounters with five 20th century musical icons – Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas. All ten of the characters hail from different countries or regions and also display stark contrasts in their personalities, humour and ethnicities yet Bernadette Robinson plays them all with almost impeccable authenticity in this one-woman show for the ages.

Robinson’s impressions of icons Judy Garland and Edith Piaf were the strongest. She brilliantly captured the delicate brassy tone of Garland’s contralto singing voice and also subtly imbued traces of the mid-western origins in her speaking voice which had us captivated. Robinson’s performance as Piaf, France’s timeless national treasure, was executed with such depth and authenticity it felt as if we were transported back to in time, particularly during her spectacular rendition of ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’.

Although Robinson’s performance as Billie Holiday wasn’t completely perfect, her rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’ was so incredibly moving and she conveyed its sensitive subject matter with respect and aplomb.

As for the ‘nobodies’, Robinson had us in stitches as New York fashion writer, Too Junior Jones, whose ambition and nerve land her the opportunity to write about Billie Holiday. And who could forget the sprightly Irish nanny, Orla McDonagh who, despite her youth and idiosyncratic nature, left us with the most important question of the entire production – “Who might I be, if I were Somebody?”…

Joanna Murray-Smith has crafted an entertaining collection of female-centric stories that are light and humorous but also thread a strong theme that carries through all five tales – the idealism of happiness. In each story, we see each of the five ‘nobodies’ yearning to be better, bigger or famous in order to achieve a perceived happiness or else, just wondering what their lives would be like. When each of them encounters their respective icon, they get an interesting insight into the lives of these women who, despite their public presence, don’t seem all that thrilled with their lives. As such, it begs the question which most of us ask ourselves – would I be happy if I was rich, famous or revered or would I soon forget the happiness I once had when I was a nobody?...

Venue Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 23rd Jan to 9th Feb 2020

Director Simon Phillips

Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith |

DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.

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