Jess Robinson: No Filter
- Jay Richardson
- 28 March 2019
This article is from 2019
Charismatic mimicry with mischievous playfulness
Impressionists are sometimes easier to admire than to enjoy. The talent for recreating a succession of famous voices is capable of raising a smile but little more if the mimicry is technically impressive but soullessly cranked out. Fortunately, the vivacious Jess Robinson brings considerable variety and a strong sense of her personality to this delightful, crowd-pleasing show.
Instantly charismatic, the tone of a tale about her earliest, fumbling sexual experience is surprisingly dirty for someone probably still best known for appearing on the family-friendly Britain's Got Talent. Slightly jarring, it nevertheless fits a persona that's attractively insecure, with Robinson casually sniping at her mother, ex-husband and backing band, comprising the absorbent and patient Michael Roulston on keyboard. Appealingly too, she appears to have to genuinely scramble and busk it with an audience-suggestion game pairing random singers with songs, delivering a compelling contrast to the otherwise slick proficiency of most of her numbers.
Some of her takes are considerably hotter than others. Her Judy Garland garlanded considerable applause but her Beyoncé might have escaped identification if she hadn't introduced it first. However, that's a minor quibble given the galaxy of stars she convincingly inhabits, ranging from Nicki Minaj to Billie Holiday. The beginning of the show is dominated by lyric-altered takes on tracks like Lily Allen's 'Smile' that only gently amuse, but which establish the idea of Robinson as a self-doubting chameleon, finding confidence through others' honesty and divadom.
How true this masquerade is appears moot. But it certainly fits No Filter's narrative arc as she increasingly flourishes as the show develops; through her mischievous playfulness with Shirley Bassey's phrasing, or her confidence to share a straightforwardly charming rendition of George Michael's 'Careless Whisper', as if by Amy Winehouse, turning it into a softly jazzy, elegiac lament. Elsewhere, there's some witty, odd couple interplay of answerphone messages left between celebrities and a tremendous six degrees of separation routine in which Robinson bewails how many of her voices are never far from descending into a depressing Theresa May.
Cumulatively, there's some diverting back-and-forth with the put-upon but impish Roulston. And she closes with her BGT showstopper of countless, cross-generational singers crooning a 'Beautiful' / 'True Colours' medley, which deservedly brings a standing ovation.
Jess Robinson: No Filter is on tour until Saturday 8 June. Seen as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival at Òran Mór, Glasgow.