THE last time Jess Robinson was in Edinburgh, she was starring as Little Voice, in the play of the same name, at the King’s. Every night she would wow audiences with her impressions of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey.
The impressionist returns to the Capital for the Fringe, where you will find her performing Mighty Voice, at the Pleasance. Here she reveals that she never meant to be an impressionist...
At 20, I played Little Voice, a part I reprised at the King’s last year. That role shaped my career.
“I’m brilliant at impressions”, I recklessly boasted to the director, desperate not to go back to my day job. My ridiculous lie hit me and I felt sick when I saw the quantity of divas I was required to emulate in the show.
So imagine my amazement when Bassey came naturally. I couldn’t believe I could imitate Billie Holiday. And was astonished I was able to reproduce Garland’s distinctive tone.
I’ve fibbed a lot to get along. My first day on Dead Ringers saw me roller-skating – “I’m highly skilled” (porky!); firing a gun, “Yeah, I’ve handled a gun before” (whopper!); and prat-falling onto a crash mat holding a turkey, all the while impersonating Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher, not to be confused with Terry Pratchett... which I definitely didn’t, certainly not in front of the whole cast and crew (LIE!).
I’ve since discovered the pioneers of impressions. Faith Brown’s Kate Bush is a classic. Both women are my heros. I so admire Mike Yarwood’s ability to do a brilliant impression while he peeks out from behind the mask he’s created with a twinkle in his eye. Pure unadulterated entertainment. I want to bottle that and pour it into Mighty Voice.
Being in the midst of something and realising it’s exactly where you want to be is quite startling. No, I never meant to be an impressionist. But I wasn’t meant to be anything else.
Jess Robinson: Mighty Voice, Pleasance, Ace Dome, until 25 August (not 11), 9.40pm, £10.50-£11.50, 0131-226 0000