Nina Conti: In Your Face

It’s a brave soul who chooses to sit in the front row of In Your Face, Nina Conti’s latest helping of deconstructive ventriloquism. Because if you position yourself closest to her you’re significantly increasing your chances of being the focus of the proceedings, instead of being able to just relax and enjoy being entertained.

Her rude and sexually inappropriate primate hand puppet makes a point of drawing attention to the artifice involved in the act.

That said, Conti’s brand of audience interaction is warm and empathetic. She centres her comedic wit on acknowledging, and vocalising, her well-chosen human puppets' embarrassment.

She kicks off by getting in quick with quips which highlight the fact that ventriloquism isn't exactly a flourishing or highly regarded area of comedy. But, following her unflattering remarks about those who practice the art of voice throwing, Conti swiftly and expertly demonstrates its possibilities.

After briefly quizzing her participants and getting them up on stage, she straps them into half masks which she controls with a hand piece to make them look like they’re talking. It's clear from the way that everyone who's been co-opted into the performance giggles away to themselves that they're in on, as opposed to just being the butt of, the joke.

Conti is extremely skilled in the art of working script-free. It’s amazing how much she can do with, and just how funny she can make the scraps of information gleaned from her charges. And she’s also not afraid of multitasking: at one point she has three people onstage at the same time.

These shenanigans are interspersed with routines involving Monkey. Her rude and sexually inappropriate primate hand puppet makes a point of drawing attention to the artifice involved in the act, and delights in saying exactly what he shouldn’t, and so prompts illicit laughs.

Elements which don’t hit the mark are a couple of unimaginative tit jokes, and repeated references to the fact that Conti’s got her hand shoved up Monkey’s posterior. And it’s a shame that the weakest moment comes in the shape of the odd, and lacklustre, finale which feels out of keeping with the exuberance of the rest of the show.

Reviews by Dawn Kofie

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Performances

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The Blurb

She's won a British Comedy Award, stormed Live at the Apollo, Russell Howard's Good News, Sunday Night at the Palladium, and made a BAFTA nominated film – all without moving her lips. Nina creates a new show each night by plucking inspiration from the audience. Strap into the mask as Nina gets in your face. With the help of Monkey and a bag of tricks, truly anything can happen in this unmissable improvised adventure of hilarious witchery. 'Uproariously hilarious' **** (Scotsman). 'Nina Conti is a genius' (Mirror). 'A gem ... funny, poignant, novel' (Guardian).

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