NINA CONTI

Nina Conti: Work In Progress: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, 2014
Nina Conti: Work In Progress: Soho Theatre, London, 2018
Gits and Shiggles Comedy (performing as Monkey and Roy): Half Moon pub, Putney, London, 2020

Impressive ventriloquist Nina Conti performed a work in progress show when I saw her at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. The audience became her act as she picked unsuspecting members of the audience to join her on-stage and wear face half masks which she controlled the mouth movements and therefore the voice. The audience see their alarmed eyes and shoulders shaking with mirth but the lower half of their face is controlled by Conti. This is her best device and is always different. Actual puppet characters used in the show were of course Monkey, her handyman, her local laundry proprietor, her oldest friend and a stray dog. Conti is an exceptional talent and was a big hit with the audience.

I saw Conti perform a work in progress hour at the Soho Theatre, London in July 2018 for her new show: Nina Conti Is Monkey. Her character Monkey, a sweet looking animal puppet with a filthy mouth provided by Conti works well; is very funny and is put to good and amazing use. For me, the best part of the hour was where Conti used a well-known manoeuvre to turn her audience into dummies by strapping them into half masks and operating their mouths at arms-length so they look as if they were talking. She flaps their elongated mouth lips up and down and gives them self-satisfied or whingeing male or female voices using ventriloquism. The masks are a cartoonish device that works well, and the audience can be passive or active when suggested to do something by Conti. In the show I saw one member of the audience ending up dancing and two ending up on a date. Conti delivered a very funny solid hour of comedy done by a master of her craft.

Conti is a highly skilled ventriloquist and a class act. However, she appeared in full costume as her sidekick puppet Monkey alongside Roy (Pajama Men’s Shenoah Allen) in a new double act that topped the bill at Gits and Shiggles in Putney in February 2020. I couldn’t understand the point as to why they needed to do this as the laughs were limited when the new bizarre ideas bounced off each other. A highlight was when Monkey tried to crowd surf the audience without success. I really hope to see Conti back doing what she does best soon.

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