Nina Conti: Evolution

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

For all the foul-mouthed puppetry, Nina Conti’s show is, at heart, as warmly old-fashioned as ventriloquism itself. There’s self-deprecating banter, old-school double-act backchat, a music-hall duet – plus the big, spectacular finish.

On top of this, she’s added an ambitious – probably over-ambitious – plot, a knowing, deconstructionist attitude and a few raunchy gags. There’s a second-act wobble, when the jokes and the concept don’t really do her justice, but overall this is a hugely entertaining and inventive hour.

The starting point is that Conti is presenting a serious lecture about evolution to mark 150 years since the publication of The Origin Of Species. That, at least, is the excuse for her to get Monkey out again, swearing and generally being offensive, while Conti giggles with embarrassments. The naturalness of the interaction is as brilliantly credible as always, and testament to her skills as ventriloquist, actor and comic.

Often Monk’s comedy contribution is to say little more than ‘fuck you, bitch,’ to his winsome controller; but his bluntness gets the laughs as much as the knowing gags about the relationship between creator and createe.

This leads the show from the Darwinian to the Freudian, as Conti takes to the couch to examine her potentially schizophrenic psyche, that channels all her evil through her puppet. Conti’s dad, Tom, also makes an appearance, in latex and video form, to help investigate her hang-ups, in a clever and funny sequence.

After this comes the dodgy patch, when the double-act is split up for the sake of their sanity. Conti embraces her sleazy side by becoming a pole dancer – with a rather ropey script - while Monk takes on all manner of degrading jobs, such as the predictably unsuitable children’s entertainer. Again, the gags fail him.

However, all is put right in a funny finale, surely the most impressive on the Fringe, which gives a new angle on Conti and Monk’s relationship and draws the show to a satisfying conclusion. It truly is Monkey magic…

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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