Nina Conti @ Pleasance Courtyard

Nina Conti and her acerbic monkey return to Pleasance with an in-yer-face show in name and nature.

Review by Cara McNamara | 10 Aug 2016

There’s always a touch of creepiness to ventriloquism, and Nina Conti’s show is right up there, as she appears to segue from puppetry to mind control.

Throughout the evening, Conti and best-known puppet Monkey invite a procession of audience members to come on stage, put on a mask, and be voiced by their host. Monkey is such a complete, foul-mouthed little beast, a perfect foil for the demure Conti – you could happily watch him snipe, leer and bitch all day. Together (and even apart), they are cryingly funny.

However, Monkey is a known, practiced quantity, unlike the masked men and women. The peril of improv is that you’re at the mercy of your audience: they need to give you something to work with, and then your human marionettes need to work with you. For this reason, this evening has varying degrees of success.

The show is a disconcerting mix of music hall and deconstructionism, almost like shifting the fourth wall if that fourth wall were made of moulded plastic. While she’s not quite Svengali yet, the ends to which she can seemingly put people should make us grateful she uses her powers for comedic purposes.

Nina Conti: In Your Face, Pleasance Courtyard (The Grand), 3-29 Aug (not 16), 8pm, £10-17.50