To call this “a one-woman show” would not do it justice. There is only one woman on the stage (and an excellent little three-piece band, barely visible at the back of the stage), but in the course of an hour and a half she becomes five women – or to be more accurate, five pairs of women.
The concept is an unusual one, but it works brilliantly. There are five set pieces, in each of which Bernadette Robinson adopts the persona of a woman occupying a lowly station in life. These are the “nobodies” of the title. Each of them has a brush with fame as they encounter, or even perform services for, a famous female singer. This wonderful Australian actress, whom I must confess I had never heard of, takes on the guise of an astonishing range of characters – from an attendant in the Ladies’ restroom of a New York night club to a concupiscent nanny on a luxury yacht – with minute attention to accent, demeanour and movement, so that we are fully convinced that she is the character she portrays. Then, with only a brief pause, she becomes the next, very different, character in the sequence, and again we are convinced by her new persona.
It helps that the monologues (or sometimes) dialogues that Miss Robinson delivers are brilliantly crafted by Joanna Murray-Smith – often witty, sometimes ironic, even pathetic, but always true to the character. The high points of the show, however, are when Miss Robinson becomes one of the famous singers and breaks into song. With an incredible vocal range which takes us from Country-and-Western through Jazz and the Great American Song Book to Opera, she performs each song exactly in the style of the original. She even gets the rolling, rhotic rrrr of “Non, je ne regrette rien” exactly as if Edith Piaf were standing before us.
This show has already had rave reviews, and this reviewer can only follow suit. The theatre was full when he saw it, not bad for a Tuesday evening in the low season. But that is not surprising. It is a truly remarkable performance.