My return to ‘terror town’

GEELONG RETURN: Bernadette Robinson is "excited" to perform her one-woman show Songs for Nobodies.

By Natalee Kerr

After nine years, entertainer Bernadette Robinson is ready to return to the “scariness” of Geelong.

The Melbourne-based performer is heading back to the region for the first time since she premiered her production Songs for Nobodies on the local stage in 2010.

Despite the show being well-received, Robinson recalled the “terror” she faced at the time.

“It was the most agonising week in the lead up, we were re-writing the script up to the opening night,” she said.

“I’d never done something on that scale before. I was so incredibly nervous, I was close to vomiting.”

But now the performance came “much more easily”, Robinson said.

“I certainly didn’t think I’d be back doing the show almost 10 years on.

“I won’t be so terrified this time; I still get nervous, but I’ve got it pretty down pat now.”

Robinson’s love for singing started from a young age, despite not coming from a musical background, with her dad a doctor and her mum a nurse.

“My parents tell me I could sing before I could speak.”

“They used to catch me in my cot humming along to all the TV commercials,” she said.

Robinson went on to study opera at the Victorian College of the Arts, where she trained under one of the industry’s “greatest” sopranos, Dame Joan Hammond.

While at the VCA, Robinson landed a role in Cats but soon became “bored” of the musical.

Later down the path, she saw a clip from the play Bombshells and discovered a format that was more suited to her passions.

“I thought ‘that’s what I want to do, something like that,’” Robinson said.Based on the encounters of five fictional women with five famous divas, Songs for Nobodies features music from Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas.

The production formed after Robinson approached director Simon Phillips and writer Joanna Murray-Smith about creating a one-woman show to honour the diverse icons.

“I was singing primarily doing cabaret and corporate events, but I really wanted to perform an acting piece,” she said.

Robinson plays 20 characters in the “demanding” show that sees her switch between accents, musical genres and vocal styles.

“It’s like running a marathon, once I’m on stage that’s it – 90 minutes of non-stop acting, singing and talking,” she said.

Audiences can expect to be “moved” as the show strips away the “veneer” of the life of stars, Robinson said.

“It’s unusual for people to not to cry at least once.”

“It’s beautifully written and the music is so powerful… it’s a wonderful show and I’m just so proud of it.”

Songs for Nobodies will play at the Geelong Arts Centre for four shows from the 13 to the 15 December.

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