FLO MORRISSEY, BILLIE MARTEN & RACHEL SERMANNI, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – Evening Standard, 26 July 2016

You don’t often get to see a concert in the replica Jacobean theatre adjacent to Shakespeare’s Globe, a fact appreciated by the three singer-songwriters who graced the small stage this evening. “This is all rather lovely,” whispered Billie Marten. Headliner Rachel Sermanni likened the space to a “wooden womb”.

Marten, Sermanni and Flo Morrissey were appearing as part of the Wonder Women series of all-female shows, curated by presenter Lauren Laverne and promoted by her website for women, The Pool. Ireland’s Camille O’Sullivan and Brooklyn musician Becca Stevens have already appeared, and to wrap things up next month, Roisin Murphy will become the first modern star to perform in the Globe itself.

More important than gender here, however, was that this show was an impeccable marriage of voices and venue. The candlelit quiet, with 340 audience members hunched knee-to-knee, demanded total immersion.

Morrissey has so far received more attention for being one of nine children to a Buddhist priest father and a financial CEO mother than for her gorgeous debut album. She bewitched early on here with a high, fluttering voice, stepping away from the microphone to deliver Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain unaccompanied and with audible heartache.

The other Billie, Yorkshire teenager Marten, had a singing voice so hushed that if she’d been performing solo she might have been drowned out by our collective heartbeats. She may struggle to grab attention at festivals with such fragile songs, from a debut album due in September, but in these surroundings, backed by cello, keyboard and brushed drums, they were able to unfurl to reveal real beauty.

A solo Sermanni, the most experienced of the trio, released her first album in 2012. Even without the moody electric guitar that colours some of her songs on record, she had the most spark, picking up the pace slightly as she rose and fell on her toes. Her between-song conversation showed that she can construct humorous anecdotes as well as intense songs, and she even won over the reticent crowd enough to earn some audience participation. Over all too briefly, her new admirers filed back towards the 21st Century with some reluctance.


Until Aug 15, Shakespeare’s Globe, SE1 (020 20 7401 9919, shakespearesglobe.com/wonderwomen)