Nina Conti is Monkey
- Marissa Burgess
- 5 August 2018
Skilful and testing work from UK's best-known ventriloquist
It seems a shame to mention how Nina Conti appears on the stage at the beginning of her show but if I don't this review will end pretty much here. If you thought the ventriloquist's act with her legendary filthy simian sidekick Monk couldn't go any further, you'd be wrong. This time Conti has actually become Monk. Yep she's got an ape suit and she's going to wear it.
And uncomfortably at that. Whether the awkwardness will be in the show near the end of the run, who knows, but it would be a shame to lose the fun to be had in the sheer impracticality of wearing a massive monkey outfit. Lumbering clumsily about the stage, the only way Conti can breathe is to occasionally open Monk's mouth so he momentarily pauses, gob agape, staring vacantly into the upper circle.
The conceit enables Conti to push further the contrast between her sweet stage personality and that which she projects onto Monk. The filthy, inappropriate, crude monkey is simply part of her, having always enabled her to say what is deemed inappropriate for a girl, and to be all those things that we know girls are too (crude, dirty, animalistic), but are expected to hide.
Then, halfway through, when we see the lithe and beautiful Conti emerge from the hairy-assed chrysalis, donning a little skirt and heels, she embraces her femininity again content in the knowledge that we know that's not all she is. The show's remainder is more conventional but serves to display Conti's brilliant ventriloquism skills to great effect. She's had the masks that make an audience member into a life-sized dummy out before, but her skill at controlling them and responding to the body language of three people at once places the depth of her abundant skill into sharp relief.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 27 Aug (not 13), 7pm, £16–£19 (£15–£18).