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Liverpool Comedy Festival 2008: Nina Conti

By Vicky Anderson on May 30, 08 11:41 AM

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COMPLETE and Utter Conti, the comedienne's first full length show at the Royal Court, flew the flag for female comics and ventriloquists everywhere. Well, not just flew the flag, but set the standard. If that’s not over-egging any existing enthusiasm for ventriloquism in the first place, that is.

The set is a mish-mash of madcap comedy, coquettish improv, theatrical sketches, inventive tangent and unexpected filth, all executed in less than an hour. At times, I found myself forgetting there really only was one performer on stage, so faultless is Conti’s interaction with her puppets.

True I was quite far away from the stage, but as far as I could squint, her lips never seemed to move, making the act eerily convincing.

Her main companion is Monk, the sardonic, depressive, and grossly offensive little monkey who bombards Conti with endless misogynistic abuse. At first, he snipes and she giggles nervously as she tries to keep him under control. It didn’t seem clear whether the warm up showed genuine nerves or set up the relationship between the two.

“Were you going to say something?? Conti nervously asks Monk after fearing she’d interrupted him.

“Well, you should f*cking know that, Nina,? Monk replies.

When Monk hypnotises her the results are inventive and impressive, particularly when the puppet fancies singing a song while Conti is in a trance. When she tries to get him to contort himself into a pint glass and he gets stuck, you marvel at her joyous imagination and attention to detail.

It’s not all cutie-pie variety stuff though. Conti is a woman not afraid to take on the character of a one-armed South African voodoo expert with a talking puppet penis (the missing arm hanging out the fly of her jeans).

So in more ways than one, its fair to say she has an act that is really unlike anything you could see anywhere else.

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