She was born in Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England. She went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. She lives with the UK writer Nick Vivian and they have a son, Dylan, and a daughter, Molly.
While working on a play directed by Jim Cartwright she used to warm up by doing singing impressions of Judy Garland, Dame Shirley Bassey and Ethel Merman, amongst others. Cartwright was so impressed with her that he wrote the play and the movie Little Voice just to show off her talent.
Absolutely Fabulous, Bad Girl, Boon, Heartland, Henry IV, Hunting Venus, La Nonna, Leaving Home, Never Mind the Horrocks, Nightlife, Red Dwarf, Road, Roots, Some Kind of Life, Suffer the Little Children, The Garden, Welcome to the Times
- Corpse Bride (2005) (voice)
- Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001) (voice)
- Chicken Run (2000) (voice)
- Faeries (1999) (voice)
- Little Voice (1998)
- Life Is Sweet (1990)
- Memphis Belle (1990)
- The Witches (1989)