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Anil Desai: Hey, Impressions Guy!

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Skill, elegance and confidence Desai has these valuable qualities as a performer and his one man show has a cast of , well, dozens. A talent for mimicry, nurtured since childhood is Anil’s raison d’etre and has picked him up from a low point of having no money and nowhere to live to touring the world and making the talent work for him.

He’s a genial communicator, setting an audience at ease and breaking us in gently to the impressions. He’s quick but relaxed, like a confident driver with a performance car. Starting off with who he looks like (Jeff Goldblum), he then talks about being plonked in front of the TV and loving animations from an early age, enjoying the voices and realising that so many cartoons were vocally like Hollywood stars.

Learning to ‘do ‘ voices meant he could be wheeled out at parties, prevent himself getting beaten up at school and attract the attention of girls, with varying degrees of success.

If you are an assiduous movie buff and TV watcher, you will be able to check off the list of voices. Some are the entry-level voices like Schwarzenegger, De Niro and anyone from Star Wars, but there more unusual offerings: Denzil Washington, Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.

The difficulty is getting them out in any way that makes you actually care. The characters are recognised at least as much by their well known phrases, if you don’t ‘get’ the voice straight off you’ll know the line or vice versa, so the essence of the show’s success is familiarity and recognition rather than surprise.

Desai successfully deconstructs an impression (Clint Eastwood) so that an audience member can have a stab at it, and by the end we can do one all together. That point would have been an entirely reasonable place to stop the show, but Desai virtually reprises the entire show by doing a staggering 52 impressions in fiveminutes, warning us to save the applause to the end, which is damned clever method of making certain of a massive send off.

It’s a technically impressive performance, it deserves a lot of respect and if you enjoy impressions you’ll love this, but for me the show didn’t quite pack enough funny. Strongly amused rather than belly laughed out.

Review date: 12 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain

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