The first ventriloquist I ever heard was Peter Brough and his puppet Archie Andrews. I say heard because he was on the radio – yes, a ventriloquist that you couldn’t see so who knows if he was moving his lips or not! But it piqued my interest in ventriloquism and I was always fascinated to see (on TV by now) the likes of Ray Alan and Lord Charles, Saveen with Daisy May, Keith Harris with Orville and Roger de Courcey and Nooky Bear. The latest in the long line of top British ventriloquists is the superb Paul Zerdin who completed his world tour with a couple of nights at the Leicester Square Theatre – as he self-deprecatingly said, from Radio City Music Hall in New York to a basement in Soho!
The show begins with a video of Zerdin on America’s Got Talent which he eventually wins. If an Englishman can win America’s Got Talent does that mean America hasn’t got any talent? It’s a surprising journey that Zerdin alludes to in his act. He then brings on his first puppet Sam who banters with Zerdin along with members of the audience. It’s the usual stuff about “I can’t speak if you don’t” etc. but Sam (well Zerdin) is very funny and they trade insults delighting the full house. He then brings on a couple of other puppets, a fox and a baby who aren’t quite as funny as Sam but amusing nonetheless. There’s also a video of some “Candid Camera” (“You’ve Been Framed” for younger readers) like stunts that bemuse the public in various locations.
After the interval, it’s almost like after the watershed on TV and Zerdin’s act gets a lot ruder and a little cruder. He brings on Albert who we’ve already seen on one of the videos. Albert is 86, deaf and about as offensive and vulgar as an octogenarian can be, swearing, insulting the audience and during a magic trick, he even exposes himself! However, he (or of course Zerdin) is very funny and the audience laps it up although I’m not sure how parents who had brought their young children thought about it. Zerdin then brings two members of the audience up onto the stage and fits them with false mouths and chins which he then manipulates so it seems as if they’re speaking but it’s the off-stage Zerdin who is literally putting words into their mouths and very funny words they are too and the couple take in the right spirit and join in with the fun.
Zerdin is a brilliant ventriloquist and you definitely can’t see his lips move. His act is extremely well polished and shines like a marble tabletop. His variety of voices is astounding and at times he seems to be doing two voices at once – a tremendous skill. His patter is very funny although at times in the second half it’s a little near the knuckle but he’s always engaging and personable – even his magic tricks are magical. His tour is now over but if you want to see him, as he says as he comes to the end of his act, he’s in the panto at the London Palladium this Christmas where he’s sure to entertain and amuse.
Review by Alan Fitter
Join Paul and an array of ‘funny and sharp-tongued’ (The Observer) creations including Sam, Albert, Baby, Roger the bodyguard and an urban fox, as he takes to the road with a show that promises that “when you are not laughing, you will simply be left in awe” (Three Weeks).
PAUL ZERDIN: PUPPETMAN
11 – 12 NOVEMBER 2023
Leicester Square Theatre
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