Nina Conti - Dolly Mixtures

Liverpool Playhouse
26 October 2013

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I first became aware of the extraordinary ventriloquist talents of Nina Conti when watching an outstanding television documentary on her in 2012, titled 'A Ventriloquist's Story: Her Master's Voice'.

It included talking to her puppets about her deceased lover and mentor Ken Campbell, renowned in Liverpool for his epic nine-hour cycle of five plays, Illuminatus; how she got involved in ventriloquism: and how Campbell persuaded her to continue mastering the skill when she had doubts whether she was good enough to pursue it.

How grateful we are for Campbell putting any of her self doubts behind her. Her performance at the Playhouse was almost a laugh a minute with her use of seven puppets and contributions from members of the audience!

The puppets included Monkey, who acts like a father confessor to the highly complex thinking Conti during the aforesaid documentary: a pit bull terrier, who took part in the London Riots two years ago; an infant Nina; and most bizarrely of all, two people plucked from the front row, whose mouths were hidden behind chattering masks, while Conti had the crowd in hysterics with her very witty and sometimes off-the-wall improvisational skills.

Another highlight was the randy six foot plus plumber from Poland, called Stefan. Another front row occupant came on stage and donned the clothing of the huge puppet, who had Conti resisting his sexual advances.

Less extreme but still funny was Granny doing some mind reading and Grandad, tired of living, topping himself in a paper shredder.

Apparently Conti's one-hour performance is based on the Seven Ages Of Man speech in Shakespeare'a As You Like It - I only found this out the day after the show - but I am not sure whether this meant as a bit of a masquerade by her. Ever the mischievous one!

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