Ronni Ancona: 'I don't think of myself as an impersonator / mimic / impressionist. I'm not sure what I am to be honest!'

This article is from 2019


credit: Steve Ullathorne

The Scottish actress and impressionist reflects on her first impressions, and her current favourites

Making a name for herself at the turn of the century alongside Alistair McGowan on The Big Impression, Ronni Ancona has also been on stage in a Molière play and appeared in Still Game as the sinister boss of a care home. Here she recalls her earliest impression.

What do you prefer to be called: impersonator? Impressionist? Mimic? Something else entirely?

I don't think of myself as an impersonator / mimic / impressionist. I'm not sure what I am to be honest! More of a comedy actress who does some voices. At the risk of sounding too pretentious, I think I would probably use the term 'performer' as it covers all areas.

What is your first memory of hearing someone impersonate another person?
My brothers impersonating the various characters in Monty Python.

What was the first impression you ever attempted and what was the reaction to it?
The first impressions I attempted were Basil Brush and Miss Piggy. Or at least I thought it was. Then I did a programme talking about how I started off in comedy and went back to my old primary school. Evidently, as it transpired, I was taking off a lot of teachers as my first impressions. I do remember getting into trouble when a teacher caught me once. Classic cliché of trying to make people laugh to make them like me, I'm afraid.

What is your own favourite impersonation? And what is the finest impersonation you've ever heard by someone else?
My favourite impression I do changes. At the moment, my favourite is Olivia Colman (pardon the pun) but I love doing Audrey Hepburn as her voice is melodious. However, it's always good to do ones that get the best reaction. I'm working with Lewis MacLeod just now and his favourite is my Kirsty Young as it cracks him up!

I can't choose my favourite impressions of others as all impressionists have one particularly sublime 'voice'. For example, Jan Ravens' Theresa May, Alistair McGowan's Richard Madeley, Lewis MacLeod's Jeremy Vine, Rory Bremner's Nelson Mandela … the list goes on.

What is the one impersonation that you have tried and tried, but just cannot quite get right?

David Cameron. I found him very difficult! Seriously though, there are loads that I find tricky but the stand-out one that fills me with shame is when I was doing The Big Impression with Alistair McGowan all those years ago when Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan were incredibly popular on This Morning. Alistair did the most sublime Richard you ever heard, and I just couldn't get Judy right. But because it was Alistair's favourite, we did so many sketches of them and I felt very inadequate.

What do you find harder: nailing an impression or getting the ideal joke to go with that impression?
A recognition laugh is stage one. The booster rocket is the gag.

Who is your favourite impersonator working today?
Really difficult question. Not trying to wriggle out of it, but I love different impressionists for different reasons and am friends with most of them. But as I'm doing a show with Lewis MacLeod, I better say him or it could get unpleasant on stage …

What would be the one piece of advice you'd give an aspiring impressionist?
Try to make sure that you like or have an interest in the people you choose to impersonate, because you'll have to watch and listen to them a lot!

Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod: Just Checking In, Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 3–17 Aug, 9pm, £14.50–£15.50 (£12–£13). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £8.

Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod: Just Checking In

Gilded Balloon presents… A once-glamorous Scottish hotel is being sold to Donald Trump. Eccentric staff and celebrity guests conspire to prevent the sale. But first, if they are to succeed, a menacing mystery must be investigated. Lewis MacLeod (Dead Ringers, The Crown) and Ronni Ancona (The Big Impression, Last Tango in…