This show could very easily be renamed The Sisterhood, Or None Shall Sleep, given that Sarah-Jane Morris could well be a graduate of the “Nobody Sleeps While I’m On” Academy Of Music. Although I could have used perhaps just one number that was a tad less frenetic, the audience couldn’t get enough – indeed they gave her an ovation just for walking on, plus a standing ovation at the end of two-and-three-quarter hours of undiluted passion.
In what is clearly a labour of love Morris selected for this project a round dozen high-achieving women singer-songwriters – Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Ricky Lee Jones, Annie Lennox and Kate Bush – and wrote lyrics encapsulating their essence, which is surely worthy of a salutation in itself.
She then handed the lyrics to Tony Remy – who was one of three guitarists in the nonet that accompanied her – to set. The audience found nothing wrong with the music. Were it not for the lyrics I would have struggled to tell one song from another, although I had more success in the second set with items like Junk In My Trunk, and For The Voiceless.
Ms Morris also deserves our applause by contriving to have each of the dozen females introduced to us via thumb-nail biographies projected onto a large screen above the stand, each artist introduced by a different non-singing female filmed as a talking head.
All in all it was a successful evening, and if at times it resembled a down-home camp meeting, and at others a political rally, no one really minded, and Morris had no trouble at all getting the audience on its feet, clapping and singing along to the encore, Piece Of My Heart.
Morris is so clearly so passionate about chronicling female achievement, and so sincere in her humanity that we would have been disappointed if she had not rounded off the evening with an Oscar-type speech in which she thanked everyone including the janitor.
Sarah Jane Morris: The Sisterhood. Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, Chelsea, 6 October 2023