Directed by Ross Gumbley
19th August 2017
Prepare yourself for an adjective heavy review! Showing restraint with words and enthusiasm will be impossible. Johanna Murray-Smith’s Songs for Nobodies starring Ali Harper leaves an impression on the soul. It is not challenging, in your face, or fast-paced, but peaceful, delightful, intimate, nurturing, funny, genuine, delicate, melancholy, and real. It’s an experience that must be felt to understand, and although we sat as a captive audience I suggest each and every one of us felt that we had Ali Harper's undivided attention. Her gentle eyes reached inside me and said ‘relax’, I trusted her as if she’d held my hand and taken me on a remarkable journey through the lives of five remarkable, as well as five unremarkable, women.
I am truly almost lost for words that could do justice to such an experience. In arts of subtlety, the crew behind this production are clearly experts. Disguised behind plain screens, a trio of musicians led by talented musical director Richard Marrett, supported Ali Harper’s incredible vocals which perfectly evoked the character she represented. Clever but understated lighting seemed to imbue the souls of past legends into Ali’s performance. Embodying such a vast range of characters Ali’s accents built the individuality of every persona and was (what’s a word with more impact than ‘impressive’) awe-inspiring.
I am so full of admiration for this woman’s performance I could actually weep, as it was, my fellow theatre-goer did wipe away a few tears of respect and admiration. The moment Ali Harper strolled on stage in a brown dress and wig and gently looked the audience in the eye was magnetic, maybe she hypnotised us... How such a drab costume and nothing more than a chair on the stage could be transcended and given so much life is a mystery.
This performance ticked all the boxes, with music, lighting, sound, and acting, so beautifully and seamlessly polished as to produce a life of its own. Such a stunning performance here in Palmerston North is a treat of immeasurable proportions. Hats off to Centrepoint for securing such a high quality performance that would be received anywhere in the world (surely) with great delight.
I’m not usually a second time viewer of anything – books, movies, shows, but I can feel Ali Harper calling me back to this unique show. Songs for Nobodies is a show that nobody should miss. It’s a full-bodied, almost spiritual experience. Thank you, Ali Harper and crew, I am full of admiration.