IF you're a fan of the more visceral kind of TV comedy - The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing You, Saturday Night Armistice - you'll have seen Rebecca Front loads of times without ever having properly registered the fact. For in the past five years Rebecca Front has seamlessly assumed a range of drastically different small-screen identities in shows featuring the satirical axis of Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan, Patrick Marber, Chris Morris, and David Schneider.

Rebecca has been fierce blonde American news anchorwoman Barbara Wintergreen; weirdly-bearded eco-crusader Rosie May, and disembodied travel correspondent Valerie Sinatra, the latter being the only character to whom The Day Today's savagely-barmy frontman, Chris Morris, was ever pleasant on camera.

But whereas Chris Morris's last Channel 4 show artfully underlined its star's status with a studied campaign of tabloid controversy, Rebecca Front still finds herself having to explain to Edfest print-jockeys like me that no, her name isn't a stage name, it's originally Polish, and yes, she actually does have quite a history of Edinburgh Fringe experience already.

Not that she's complaining about this current lack of a high media-profile. Rather, she accepts it as the great occupational hazard of being an accomplished character actor: no one remembers you, only the characters you've so successfully become.

In fact, Rebecca Front is sufficiently skilled at her job to have misled distinguished film auteur Tony Palmer. ''He's a big fan of Knowing Me Knowing You, and asked me to read for the role of Queen Mary in his Channel 4 film of the life of Henry Purcell. He was convinced I was a blonde American, and was delighted to discover I was English and dark.''

She got the gig, thus further advancing a career which, after beginning with The Oxford Revue and a post-graduate drama course, kicked off professionally nine years ago with an atypical spell in tea-time childrens' TV as a perky assistant to knockabout vaudevillian Bernie Clifton in Tricky Business.

Having last appeared on the Edinburgh Fringe eight years ago as half of musical cabaret double-act the Bo Bo Girls, Rebecca Front returns this year in a very different role, starring in Swan Song,

a one-woman drama written by Jonathan Harvey, the playwright whose award-winning hits include Beautiful Thing, Babies, and Boom Bang A Bang.

''Swan Song is a very funny, sharply-written, well-observed monologue about a good, dedicated teacher who isn't so great at personal relationships,'' Rebecca tells me.

Following her recent nine-month London West End run in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, Swan Song highlights Rebecca's ongoing move into straight drama, away from the comedy with which she has so far been associated. Her most recent TV work has been non-comedic, too, in The Missing Postman, supporting James Bolam and Alison Steadman, and Have Your Cake And Eat It with Holly Aird. Additionally, her next TV engagement is as a barrister alongside John Thaw in Kavanagh QC. But how did she get into comedy in the first place, and why does she now want to branch out from it?

''It's not that I'm not going to do comedy, it's all acting after all. It's more that comedy has so far dominated by default. I began at 15 at school, in youth theatre. At university, I went for Shakespeare auditions at OUDS, but when I looked at the queues of beautiful women with pre-Raphaelite hair, I knew I'd end up getting Nurse.

''So it was the path of least resistance - comedy in The Oxford Revue, where there were less women. I also knew I could do comedy so long as my thought-processes were sound. I also really enjoyed comedy, enjoyed the people in it, and enjoyed writing it. I still do.''

And does Edinburgh hold fond memories of festivals past? ''My first time there as a kid was fantastic. I fully embraced the notion of street theatre outside the Fringe ticket office. But it's strange how you become an adult and realise that people really do not want to be be hassled by teenage thespians standing on Edinburgh street corners in Victorian dress shouting at them.

''There have been lots of high points, good shows and nice reviews, and doing my first little bits of radio and TV work in Edinburgh. In our last year as the Bo Bo Girls, Sioned Wiliam and I managed to make #17 profit each, too. Chiefly, you learn to work with audiences in Edinburgh, because a sell-out crowd of 120 can be followed by 12 the next night, and you learn to pitch a performance that will keep both audiences.

''The lowest points came whenever The Oxford Revue did a 20-minute spot in the Fringe Club where everyone seems to hate you simply for being from Oxford, no matter how good your material is. Thankfully, the worst that ever happened to us there was being pelted with balloons.''

And the future for Rebecca Front? Becoming a staple of the TV incarnation of People Like Us, the Radio 4 quasi-documentary comedy series starring Chris Langham as a bone-headed investigative journalist. Writing for radio and TV with her dramatist brother Jeremy Front. ''Doing more drama, more comedy. My influences are Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness - versatile, understated character actors, people who seem to do nothing and yet they're completely riveting.

''I'd hope that's what I am. That isn't the way to Hollywood mega-stardom, though, which seems to consist of playing yourself. I'm beginning to play characters who are more like me, but I'd be unhappy if I couldn't play characters like the one in Swan Song, who is totally unlike me.''

So who is Rebecca Front?

''Dead straight. Level-headed. A middle-class liberal from suburban Essex. Very ordinary.''

And extraordinarily good at being anything but.

n Swan Song is at the Pleasance daily at 8.25pm.