Bernadette Robinson talks about bringing Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and more to the West End stage
Bernadette Robinson’s critically acclaimed performances in multiple sell-out seasons of the one-woman musical play Songs For Nobodies and Pennsylvania Avenue have confirmed her standing as one of Australia’s leading singers/actresses. She is a familiar figure on Australian concert stages, having given sell out concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Adelaide Festival Centre, the Melbourne Recital Centre and its neighbour, Hamer Hall, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
Last year we spoke to Bernadette ahead of her run at Wilton’s Music Hall and so we caught back up with her to find out about the West End transfer, currently playing at the Ambassadors Theatre.
Can you tell me about the show?
The show is a series of five monologues told from the perspective of a ‘nobody’ who in some way has an encounter with one of five famous singers: Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas.
What part do you play in the show and where does it fit in to the story?
It’s a one woman show so I play all the parts! About 20 in all I think there are.
What’s your favourite part of the whole show and why?
As a monologue, my favourite is probably the third one which is where I play Edie Delamotte, the English school librarian whose life is intertwined with that of Edith Piaf. But as a select moment, I love the transformation from Bea Appleton to Judy Garland in the first monologue, because of how unexpected the audience finds it each time.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
Taking this show to the Wilton’s Music Hall in London was incredible!
Who are your biggest inspirations inside and outside of the industry?
I studied opera at the Victorian College of the Arts in Australia, and my teacher there, Dame Joan Hammond was and is still an inspiration to me. Outside of the industry, my mother was always an inspiration to me, and growing up, I remember her always singing and playing recordings of great singers.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Not really, just try to remain calm!
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
From the show, probably Maria Callas’ version of Vissi D’arte from Puccini’s Tosca.
What’s so special about this production and why should audiences come to see it?
I think audiences can expect a show that explores some of the emotions we all feel in our lives: loneliness, grief, loss but also love. It’s a show that explores our desire to be in close proximity with celebrity or talent, but also strips away the veneer of the life of stars, showing that the ‘nobodies’ and the ‘divas’ aren’t ultimately that different.
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