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Nina Conti: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Marissa Burgess

As we're leaving the auditorium, which is covered with specks of foam, one guy exclaims to his companion: ‘That was bizarre.’

It certainly was, and in a good way, for the most part. What Conti is attempting is ambitious and has the potential to be a fantastic, dark exploration of the art and psychology of ventriloquism, where each puppet is an aspect of the ventriloquist's psyche. But it's not quite there yet.

Conti opens with the familiar Monk, the cheeky monkey she's worked with for years who is always more than happy to say all those things that nice girl Nina wouldn't dare. In addition there are four new characters: her daughter, the family rescue dog Killer, builder Stefan and Great Uncle John as well as the more familiar figure of her Scottish Granny plus the unexpected addition of two members of the audience transformed into puppets too.

There are flashes of genius here, such as Nina's self-aware 'daughter', outrageous events with the life-size Stefan, and beautifully poignant moments with so-very-old Great Uncle John, slightly losing his mind and not sure when the end will come.

There are also scenes of sheer comedy such as her daughter's song, My Face Hurts When I Play Guitar; the canine Killer wearing a pink tutu and pink bow randomly shouting ‘Joshie’ in a Hyacinth Bucket voice plus Conti's granny is always a delight, admonishing her granddaughter in her 'whore shoes'.

In addition there's also something slightly giddy about Conti's performance tonight. She often giggles at Monk's barefaced rudeness but it often makes her look out of control of the situation and this can be disconcerting.

It's fun to draw attention to the ventriloquism process - you feel like you're being let in on something as Monk teases Conti for saying ‘gye’ rather than ‘bye’ when he is returned to his bag - but these moments would probably work better if she had a more confident stage persona. After all she has the talent, there's no reason she couldn't be more sure of herself and realise the full immense potential of this show.

Review date: 25 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
Reviewed at: Pleasance Dome

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