Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
Nina Conti is an established actress, but is perhaps best known as a ventriloquist and stand up, and this is what the sell-out crowd at the Pleasance Dome had come to see in Nina Conti: Dolly Mixtures. Her repertoire includes some well known characters, with Monk the depressed monkey opening the show with banter with those on the front row. The illusion of a separate individual is complete when Monk says outrageous things leaving Conti herself in fits of laughter. Monk was followed by Nina’s “eight year old daughter”, Nina. Conti milks plenty of laughs as puppet Nina and the other characters remark that they have no choice in their words and are even unable to move independently, often complaining that she has placed them in uncomfortable positions. It quickly becomes clear that puppet Nina represents Conti herself at that age, which causes the puppet Nina considerable confusion. Fortunately, at this performance an audience member was persuaded to play the part of God to answer some of puppet Nina’s questions – which he did, extremely well.
The next character takes audience participation to a rather higher level. Taking the part of Conti’s handyman, an audience member is persuaded to help with the puppetry – which involves climbing inside a life size dummy. Another new character, Conti’s “aunt” follows, and then “Killer” a (mostly) camp stray Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In each case, Conti’s relationship with the audience makes the whole performance appear absolutely spontaneous, while never descending into the shambolic. The highlight has to be the segment in which male and female audience members are fitted with masks to enable Conti to put words in their mouths as they woo one another on stage.
Conti may not be the most technically adept ventriloquist, but she has an excellent rapport with the audience and quick wits, which make for a really entertaining night. Whether you enjoy stand up or ventriloquism, Nina Conti is definitely worth serious consideration.
Runs until 27 August 2012