Jess Robinson: Impressive

I should declare an interest here. I was a professional impressionist for twenty years (Dead Ringers, series 1 – they didn't invite me back for the next fifteen) who understands that every impressionist has ten bankers, twenty pretty accurate soundalikes and a plethora of cartoon voices that live or die by the chutzpah and belief with which they are imbued. Jess Robinson offers both in spades.

Robinson is a truly gifted mimic with energy, charm and verve to burn.

Impressionists have two chances. A great voice can work with an average line and vice versa. The aim, of course, is to touch greatness with both. The underlying weakness of this show is that while many of Ms Robinson's impressions are bang on, the script is largely feeble. She strikes me as an actor, singer and mimic lacking the funny bones of the natural comedian.

But there are many high spots. Like when she points up the aching chasm between the spoken and singing voices of the childlike Paloma Faith and a blokey, swollen-lipped Adele before melting into their velvety vocals. Natalie Cassidy singing Free Nelson Mandela amongst other classics chosen by the audience is a highlight too, if overused. And there are some fun re imaginings of crappy advert jingles in diva voices, an obvious trope but effective nonetheless.

Robinson has a story, that of her divorce and how it affected her and her Jewish family. But the tale feels superficial, a clunky device designed to allow her to shoehorn in as many impressions as possible, and I'm not sure it adds anything. A keener script would have helped her tell a more compelling and relevant tale, the impressions serving to highlight both the comedy and poignancy.

She is less comedian than cabaret artiste, professional, uber-rehearsed and a little cheesy. Her efficient four piece band, playing softly under her tame patter before striking up as she leans into another song, is old fashioned, and her Mike Yarwood-alike 'this is me' song to close - as though being herself ultimately got her through her year of hell - was cringey.

Robinson is a truly gifted mimic with energy, charm and verve to burn. Many in the packed house – first Monday? now that's impressive – stood to applaud and cheer. For me, though, less slickness and a harder edge would have created a more compelling vehicle for her undoubted talents.

Reviews by Simon Lipson

Summerhall

Bubble Schmeisis

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Steen Raskopoulos – You Know the Drill

★★★★★
Underbelly, George Square

Tom Walker: Beep Boop

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Jess Robinson: Impressive

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Vocal gymnast and impressionist Jess Robinson is back – this year with her incredible live band! Prepare to be blown away by Edinburgh's 2015 triple award-winning star of ITV's Newzoids and Rory Bremner as she dazzles with showstopping singing, comedy and irreverent celebrity impressions (quite possibly while tap-dancing, playing the drums and doing the splits with her legs behind her head at the same time). Impressive! Amused Moose People's Champion Award, Spirit of the Fringe Award. 'Remarkable' **** (Telegraph). 'A star is born' **** (Metro). 'Magnificent' **** (Chortle.co.uk). 'Stunning' ***** (Edinburgh Evening News).