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Just for Joe

Written and devised by: Elaine C Smith and Brenda Cochrane
Director: Nigel West
Music: Kennedy Aitchison and Alan McPike

It was while she was getting rave reviews as Mama Morton in the West End prouction of Chicago that Brenda's father, Joe, died. After she finished her run on the show, she returned to Scotland and took time off to take stock. The result was Just for Joe, a look back on her life and career, written in collaberation with Elaine C Smith. The show is set backstage as Brenda prepares for a performance. She tells and sings of the highs and lows of her career, the music which has been important to her and the people who have influenced her, chief amongst whom was, of course, Joe.

Just for Joe is a genuine, honest and often very funny one-woman account of a singers life. As a young working class girl living in Lanarkshire, Brenda realised her destiny, whether she liked it or not, was to become a singer. Her huge talent did not always bring her happiness and at times she tried to hide from the pressures to succeed in a music business that was more interested in looks and glamour than ability.

Just for Joe is scripted by TV comedienne and actress Elaine C Smith, and directed by West End director Nigel West (Chicago), with music arranged and recorded by Kennedy Aitchison and Alan McPike. Following a highly successful tour of Scotland, an expanded version of the show ran at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow.


Some reviews of "Just For Joe" at the Edinburgh Festival

There was the most brilliant and real air about her - her conversation so simple and chat like you soon forget this show is scripted. 'We spend the hour talking about singing, her love/hate relationship, the way it has moulded her life and lifestyle. Then you hear the voice, covering all genres, seemingly effortless yet heavy with emotion. By the end I had feelings of sympathy, envy and pride, but overall I was quite simply in utter awe.

"ThreeWeeks" review of Edinburgh Festival shows.

BRENDA Cochrane's life makes a wonderful story; Just For Joe is it. Set in her dressing room an hour before she is due on stage, she tells the story of her life, from her humble Scottish beginnings to her quest for stardom around the globe. Her reminiscences are interspersed with songs from each era of her life, from Ave Maria to Barry White, all of which show her amazing vocal strength, talent and versatility. Her renditions of Don McLean's Vincent, and Janis Ian's At Seventeen were heartbreaking, and had me sobbing quietly into my tissue, while her impressions of her parents' generation singing at social functions were hysterical.

Her ambition when she was young was to be able to "stop the room" with her singing. Whatever else she may have missed out on in her life, that is one goal she has well and truly achieved.

Kirsty Knaggs, Scotsman festival review

What a voice! Imagine Vonda Shepherd, Arethra Franklin and Eva Cassidy rolled into one and that's Brenda Cochrane. Sure, you’ve heard of her! She won Opportunity Knocks. She's had some success in the States and most recently she’s been in the London production of "Chicago". Incredibly, her name hasn't registered in the UK.

I know, I know! I'm supposed to be giving you a critical assessment of her one-woman show, "Just for Joe" but there's nothing to be critical of. Just for Joe is a mix of dramatised life story and music. It's nothing innovative; on stage there's just a dressing room table and chair, a few props and a couple of spangly outfits hanging. As Brenda prepares for an imaginary show, she tells her story, blending in songs from the sixties and seventies and the traditional ballads of her youth. There's energy in these songs, but Brenda puts in that extra ingredient and you can feel the audience - not the usual Edinburgh crowd - straining at the leash. "Burn! Baby Burn!" They want to dance! But they don't, they are transfixed by her presence on stage.

"Just For Joe" has been devised by Brenda and Elaine C. Smith but this is Brenda Cochrane's show. She's not some marketing creation; she's not a bimbo with a shelf life shorter than a box of corn flakes. She is the singer with the voice that rings everyone's inner bell. Go and see or miss out!

Max Blinkhorn, EdinburghGuide.com