Nina Conti Talk To the hand
Submitted by K.E. Weber on Friday, 22nd Apr 2011
Date of Show:Thursday, 14th April 2011 (All day)
There are two simple rules to ventriloquism: make it look easy, and don't f-the elephants. Good thing elephants can't fit into theatres, then.
Nina Conti's entrance is deceptively tame. She enters with five bags and a smile, opening by introducing herself to the audience. Then, there's the magic. As ventriloquists go, Nina is a good one, and despite the fact that there are no visible puppets, it's easy to believe that one of them is calling to her from his bag.
The first puppet: Monkey, quite possibly the crassest primate one will ever meet. Though of course Nina is behind it all, suspension of belief is simple when everything from Monkey's mouth is abuse aimed at his puppeteer. He makes jabs at her intelligence, and the audience's, going so far as to call audience members out on their life choices during Nina's conversation with the front row.
Monkey's got a potty mouth worse than a sailor's, but he's definitely the most lovable character of the evening, and it's hard to watch him end up back in the bag. He's quickly replaced by Owl, a fluffy poet with a romantic heart (until he tells an audience member he'll hover above her house and relieve himself on her if she doesn't go out with him). His claim to fame is his poetry, written very carefully and specifically about City Name, with a lovely jab at Rival City in the final lines.
Owl's time onstage is short-lived, perhaps because his hopeless love for the woman in the front row is terrifying her, and next the audience is introduced to Nina's Grandma, a funny old woman who's just that little bit psychic. Her phone call to a Sydney hotel is cut off pretty quickly as the clerk realises she's being pranked, but soon to follow is truly the most impressive trick of the evening, involving a blindfold and a moment where the audience still isn't quite sure how any of it happened.
The last proper puppet we meet is Lydia, a New Yorker with a hatred for her accent and personality, and so demands that Nina run a gauntlet of other accents to find her a new one. There are some suggestions from the audience that Nina can't quite get right (Asian, one kid requests, prompting a startled it's a f-in' kid! from Lydia, who was under the impression this was an adults-only affair), but every attempt is entertaining. Nina also attempts the ventriloquism classic: drinking while the character speaks, and it's like Lydia's voice is really emanating from the busty puppet, Nina is just that talented.
Finally the last bag opens to reveal a pair of oversized human jaws, which are strapped to audience members as they become Nina's human puppets. Even as their body language is clearly saying no, their mouths can't stop saying yes as Nina encourages them to dance. It's a riotously funny end to an already perfect show, and definitely worth seeing more than once.