I must not be the only person that finds the idea of ventriloquism a little bit creepy and outdated, the art form seems to have mostly died as an art form and not seen in the mainstream again since before the millennium, until one woman flipped it on its head. That woman is Nina Conti and I went along to see how she's brought an art form back from the dead and brought the audience back with her.
At the Lowry Theatre, as part of her ' In your face tour' ,and the reason it's in a large theatre and not part of a local pub's talent night is that Conti has turned everything on its head. Any ventriloquist will tell you that one thing they definitely need is a trusty wooden dummy at all times, something lifeless which makes the ventriloquist the only human on stage , this is something that Nina doesn't rely on, it barely features, in the form of her 'money'.
Instead, it's quite ingenious really, she uses the audience to get the laughs, bringing up members of the audience and by adding a small contraption to their mouths, they are now transformed into the most lifelike dummies around. You can see the awkwardness of the dummy oozing from their scared eyes and hand gestures but their big novelty lips are controlled by Conti and her wicked sense of humour prevails.
It's an act which brings a lot of laughs, laughs from the content, laughs from the awkwardness of the dummies and the outrageous ways she manipulates the dummies, in the first half she introduces us to Monkey briefly and continues to bring on a married couple from Row B on separately and hilariously chats to the now converted dummies about work, life and singing songs, which the dummies reluctantly play along with, even when it involves one of them playing guitar; something they can't do, with their cartoon lips attached, how can they refuse.
The first half ends on her dummy; monkey hypnotising Conti, a very clever way of pausing the show for the interval.
The second half can only be describing as organised chaos, Conti explained at the start of the show that 90% of the show is improvised and there's no script, this is evident in the second half, which kicks off with a question and answer session with monkey, this sets the rest of the show in motion as Nina invites 5 members of the audience on to the stage to what I can only describe as the craziest thing I have ever witnessed on stage, you forget how clever this is while watching but what is really happening is one ventriloquist is controlling all 5 people and creating a weird and wonderful story in the process about an ostrich farm, the way Nina Conti interacts with the audience is magical, the way she can think so quickly on her feet is impressive and what she delivers is a laugh out loud night.
Reviewer: Max Eden
Reviewed: 23rd October 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★