Bernadette Robinson

Bernadette res
Photo: Kurt Sneddon/Blueprint Studios

Slide, July 4

Bernadette Robinson’s star turn in the one-woman musical play, Songs For Nobodies (penned by Joanna Murray-Smith) was a hard act to follow. What to do next when you have inhabited the lives and conjured the voices of Judi Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas?

Robinson’s stated intention was to reveal more of herself and her own voice in a cabaret show. In reality over half the repertoire saw her revisiting Judi, Patsy, Billie and Edith, and her impressions of these greats tended to be more gripping than Robinson being Robinson.

She began with a well-worn clutch of Garland numbers, and then was herself for Anyone Who Had A Heart, although there was little fresh illumination of the song. Infinitely more entertaining was I Could Have Danced All Night, where she imagined each of Barbra Streisand, Maria Callas, Dolly Parton and Shirley Bassey playing Eliza.

The Blower’s Daughter and One Perfect Day provided further glimpses of the real Robinson without quite convincing. Then she offered a hilarious impression of Julie Andrews as a disco queen for I Love The Nightlife.

The Cline songs were so convincing as to suggest that had Robinson moseyed down the country road throughout her career she would long have been a Tamworth headliner. The slow tempo of Leavin’ On Your Mind had her superbly deploying floating vowels and stinging consonants, while Paul Noonan’s piano accompaniment was the epitome of understatement.

The contrast remained turned on high as she soared off into the fun of Offenbach’s The Doll Song, before revisiting Holiday, although the Strange Fruit was not her best version. A Piaf selection to close reminded us just how good she is at channelling The Little Sparrow.

A throwaway encore of (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me led to a slice of Robinson-as-Robinson that finally matched her alter egos. This was an affecting performance of a singularly apt song for her: Playing Games.