The lovely Jess Robinson will soon be gracing our Congress Theatre stage when she stars as Little Voice in the show of the same name at the beginning of November. You might already have seen her on TV in Dead Ringers and The Impressions Show or in her theatrical productions. She has been Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Liesl in The Sound of Music and also embarked on a national tour playing Joan Collins' daughter in Full Circle.
I interviewed Jess in August as Little Voice rehearsals were getting underway.
tE: There doesn't seem to be much time between starting rehearsals and the first performance. How do you learn everything so fast?
JR: It's amazing how quickly lines and lyrics go in when you really love the script and songs. An old drama teacher of mine once said that you can tell how good the writing of a piece is, depending on how fast you can learn it. The cast are all so lovely and supportive of each other, it's easy to grab a quick ten minutes over lunch to run through lines or go over blocking together. We're all on the same side and want this amazing play to be the best it can be, so we'll do whatever it takes!
JR: I was trained in classical singing from the age of around 9. I've always approached impressions from a musical point of view. I have a good ear for pitch and tone and I know how to create different sounds and what the different vocal qualities feel like. Apart from irritating my mum by imitating her, my first impression was actually a singing one: Kate Bush. I used to entertain my friends with Wuthering Heights, crazy dancing and all. I personally find singing impressions easier than speaking impressions. Or rather, I prefer them. You have the luxury of sustained sounds so you can 'tune in' to the voice and monitor yourself as you go along.
Speaking impressions are also great fun. Especially if the person you are imitating has a distinctive accent or speech pattern. I always approach a speaking impression from a musical point of view... I begin with the tone and pitch of the voice. And listen to the speech patterns to detect whether there's a tune to the voice - does it always go up and down in the same places?
tE: Do you have a favourite Little Voice song?
JR: The short answer is no. I'll get a huge amount of satisfaction from singing in a powerful American Broadway voice such as Ethel Merman's one day, and the next, I'll prefer the refined classical pure voice of Julie Andrews. It depends on how I'm feeling!
tE: Little Voice is touring all over the country. How will you cope with being away from home for so long?
JR: I'll have my laptop, my iPhone and my slippers. That's all I need really. As long as I'm staying somewhere clean and fresh and there's 24 hour access to a good cup of tea, I'm happy! It's a wonderful way to visit and discover Britain. I'd like to make the most of seeing all these different towns and cities. I'm really looking forward to visiting Eastbourne. I love to be near the sea!
Congress Theatre, Mon 5th - Sat 10th Nov, 19:30.
Thu & Sat matinees, 14:30.
Tickets various prices. Available online from Eastbourne Theatres website, by calling 01323 412000, or in person at the Box Office and the Tourist Information Office.