I’m probably not alone in finding the traditional ventriloquist act a slightly creepy and repetitive affair. Thankfully, Nina Conti feels the same and hits this issue head on (via her foul mouthed sidekick Monkey), telling us that most ventriloquists ‘die on cruise ships’.
To avoid such a fate, Conti has aimed to reinvent this form of entertainment and does so with aplomb. Whilst the monkey is amusing, she quickly ditches him in favour of her own live-action ventriloquism. Up come some brave souls from the audience, who are strapped with cartoon masks that allow Conti to control their voices.
Here is where the show comes to life, particularly as the audience members relax and realise the joke isn’t on them. Every little hand movement or pose from them becomes a source of comedy for Conti to work with.
As Conti admits at the top of the show, the majority of tonight is improvised – which can lead to either unexpected hilarity or awkward pauses. Tonight, it’s a mixture of both. The first half seems to come to an abrupt end after she struggles to find much material in one audience member. Thankfully, she regroups and returns with a much stronger second half. Her best work comes from a whole family ending up on stage – including a brother-in-law who, Conti decides, must be wishing he’d never married into a family that would put him through such an ordeal.
There’s no denying Conti’s skill. Her voices are first-rate and she is a charming entertainer – but with a first half of barely 30 minutes and a second half of 45, I couldn’t help but feel it falls short of a full evening out. Much like her sidekick Monkey, maybe she needs a hand.
Nina Conti played Colston Hall on Tuesday, October 11.
For more comedy lineups, visit www.bristol247.com/channel/whats-on/comedy-01