Noise Next Door
She is also becoming a reality TV regular, appearing in Sky One’s Cirque Du Celebrity and BBC Three's Celebrity Scissorhands, both in 2007.
Her acting credits include the BBC Three drama Spinechillers, a theatrical production of Malcolm X and the lead role in the stage show Waiting To Inhale.
She also filmed a BBC Three show Gory Greek Gods in Greece in July 2004.
Big Fat Gypsy Gangster
A belated, comedic addition to the enduring British gangster genre – though suddenly topical given today’s events at Dale Farm – this strange vehicle for Ricky Grover’s psychotic Bulla alter-ego has some outrageously silly moments, but set in such a tangled, bizarre story that it certainly takes some perseverance to get at them.
It is no small achievement for the comic to have got this made at all – how many other stand-ups of similar status could have got the financing, cast and crew together? – and he not only stars, but directed and co-wrote it with Maria Grover (a relation, we assume) as well.
But perhaps another pair of eyes could have avoided some of the obvious pitfalls the messy script tumbles into to bring out the best elements of the comedy-adventure that only fleetingly appear, and only really gel relatively late in the film.
Bulla, if you don’t know, is a sociopathic East End gangster, fiercely loyal to his family but prone to the old claret-spilling ultra-violence, whether as part of a planned bank raid or an unhinged moment of madness. We first meet him as he’s released from 16 years’ jail, mostly in solitary.
Or rather we don’t meat him, as most of the first ten minutes of the film is full of talking heads explaining what a fearsome ‘human timebomb’ this character is, breaking the cardinal ‘show don’t tell’ rule of filmmaking. Every character is introduced, as is now the cliché, with a freeze-frame made into a poster caption, often containing information we already know, but we are missing the most important figure. If this aims to build up his mythical villainous status, like the shark in Jaws, it doesn’t come off, and is just frustrating
When we do finally do get properly introduced to Bulla, most of the action takes place in the back of a Transit van as the newly ex-con signs a deal with an American documentary-maker (one eye on a US distribution deal maybe) to make this very film, as his accountant Jik Jickles (a scene-stealing Omid Djalili) advises.
Then, as if suddenly struck by how static everything has been so far, Grover throws absolutely everything at the screen, without much care for whether it really makes sense. In an explosion of random sketch ideas, a tour bus is hijacked (why?), we meet a girl band obsessed with him (why?) and we are introduced to two of the three mystical ‘spiritual advisers’ he has (why?).
These gurus are played by the most unlikely trio of Rufus Hound, Steven Berkoff and Derek Acorah, while the girl band features N-Dubz singer and X-Factor judge Tulisa Contosatavlos so you can’t help but think he’s using every celeb who replied to the email. Yet only one cameo, really works – Peter Capaldi (who directs Grover in the Jo Brand NHS comedy Getting On) in a memorable scene as Bulla’s prison psychiatrist.
This section’s largely a burst of noise, as unpredictable and baffling as Bulla’s violent outbursts – a disconcerting feeling that’s underlined by the snatches of him dancing or philosophising in a white room, possibly representing his inner monologue.
There are some nice moments amid all this, though. Bulla’s ‘we were so poor…’ speech is quietly surreal, and while the gay ex-cop who is our anti-hero’s nemesis is every much as cartoonish as the other characters, the cheap sight gags his too-short kimono offers are charmingly immature.
When, after all this, we get to the nub of the story, the film really starts to work. Seems Bulla needs to raise some cash to save his beloved, aggressively batty Aunt Queenie’s boozer – and the only way to do that in the gypsy world from which he hails is by stealing or fighting. And the solution he comes up with is hilarious, if hardly politically correct.
There’s a sub-plot involving a matter of honour with Djalili’s character, that doesn’t bear much logical scrutiny, but gives the Iranian some reason to be on screen, which is always welcome even if you might want to obliterate the memory of his hirsute torso from your memory. Watch out, too, for a number of comedians in cameos, from Ninia Benjamin to Michael Smiley.
The film’s personality is as random as Bulla’s; well-intentioned but misguided, never quite sure what it is, or what it wants to do next. One such mood swing comes in the closing scenes which show a more tender side to our psycho, an unexpected and out-of-character moment that allows Grover to demonstrate his formidable acting chops.
In all, a bit of mess, redeemed by some great moments. But would you really expect more… after all, how many great films are named after faddish TV shows?
|Date of live review: Monday 19th Sep, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Thursday 1st Aug, '02-
Ninia is just brilliant! Highly recommended.
Just watched her MC at the Cardiff Glee and she was hilarious! Rude and raunchy yet always warm and incredibly likeable she helped make it a great night for us all. Fab!
A great comic. One of the few naturally funny people I have met.
Saw her tonight. Was very, very poor. Her jokes seemed to be just about farting, how much she enjoys men and that was it pretty much. She did a few jokes and seemed to give up halfway through. Not very good, not particularly clever or groundbreaking and extremely cringeworthy. Dire, painful and an awkward waste of time.
Ninia is a future headliner! She was exceptionally funny - Her material ranged from the visual to the clever to the crude! Highlight of the evening!
Shows how far you can get with a confident style and pathetic material that could have been written by a mentally deficient teenager. It’s tragic that people are happy to pay for this kind of tired, lazy ‘comedy’. If you like originality, wit and memorable jokes then avoid her like the comedy cancer she is. Dire.
Excellent performer, she was born for the stage. Made the funniest, raunchiest jokes with no apologies. She's a brat, she's entertaining, she doesn't apologise. Self deprecating wit mingled with obtuse sex gags had our whole audience in stitches. Alot of her jokes were intelligent too, I mean she was making fun of an obtuse local newspaper we have in a small town in Galway. Definitely like her....
With a relentless energy and ferocious stage presence, Nina Benjamin is a barn-storming comic. She somehow manages to sport a different haircut every single night, and comes on-stage with an East End attitude that takes Bow by storm every night she's on. Top-notch.