Nina Conti’s latest show, In Your Face, shows off a wealth of talent; not only as a skilful ventriloquist, but also as an improviser, comedian and master of accents. Through ninety minutes of mostly improvised comedy, Conti manipulates a selection of the audience, masks and her monkey, constantly bouncing around conversation between up to six completely-improvised characters, based solely on the occupations and body language of her subjects.
Starting with the monkey from the bag, Conti warms up her audience with a duologue of wit. The humour comes not only from her punchlines, but also from the contrast between her whimsical innocence and the filth from that monkey’s mouth. It’s hard to believe it’s coming from the same person, which is all part of the illusion. Part of the beauty of Conti’s comedy is the dramatic irony that comes with the form: those moments when she sets herself impossible tasks as we wait with squeaking laughter to work out how she’s going to resolve them. Asking the monkey to help move a chair across the stage, or play the guitar as he explains, ‘My face hurts when I play the guitar’. The audience are in on the act, allowing for multiple opportunities of humour not only within the context of the comedy but around the practicalities of the art form itself.
Conti begins to lure members of the audience up onto the stage; dressing them in masks with animated lips which she controls via an arm-length rod, she quickly assigns a voice and away she plays. Tonight began with Stephen, a warehouse manager, with the comedy ensuing as Conti questions her subjects, but finds herself having to provide the answers. As the act progresses, Conti juggles more and more faces, eventually leading to a circus act of six characters, each with their own accent, background story and dance move. Conti’s memory is impressive as she makes links from things said earlier in the show, and her ability to slip in and out of characters to puppeteer this sextet of caricatures is effortless.
As an artist, Conti is dedicated to the form. Her decision to have the stage filled with so many people could be risky, yet her precise control and focus maintains the high standards of her performance. She has us crying with laughter, which progressively increases as the act moves forward, and we are so absorbed by the show as a whole that it’s easy to forget that she’s at the centre manipulating everything that’s being said.
Review by Joseph Winer
Nina Conti: In Your Face
At New Wimbledon Theatre on Monday 3rd October 2016
Following her sell out 2016 Edinburgh run, sold out UK tour and fresh from a critically acclaimed and fantastically successful West End run; ebp in association with PBJ Management are delighted to announce that Nina Conti is to take her smash-hit show In Your Face on the road.
Because In Your Face is almost entirely improvised, Nina is bringing this critically acclaimed show back on the road in 2016 – that even more people can see Nina’s exceptionably entertaining take on ventriloquism, and give audiences the chance to experience the rare treat of an entirely unique, one-off performance.