Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until Sat 30 Aug 2015 (times vary)

As she walks on stage to an enthusiastic audience, Nina Conti looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and she continues to act like an innocent bystander during all that subsequently ensues. Despite the fact that part of the cleverness of Conti’s show is her regular deconstruction of what is going on, her characters instantly take on a life of their own, and she like so many ventriloquists before her, becomes an apologising, vanilla foil for the more edgy antics of her dummies.

Monkey is here as always, with his dark, acerbic commentary on the world, the yin to Conti’s yang. Conti allows us to believe that she isn’t entirely in control of what Monkey is going to say next—that is to say she isn’t quite in control of herself—and this lack of self restraint is of course very funny, but at the same time is both thrilling and almost frightening to behold.

There is some chat with nearby audience members as Conti chooses her marks for the main segment of the show. Using masks whose mouths she controls, Conti metamorphosises those who are chosen into her dummies for the evening, improvising words into their mouths based on information previously gleaned. Her human mannequins, anonymised by the masks, cannot help themselves and begin to join in to varying degrees, Conti very adeptly and spontaneously weaving what they get up to into her improvisation, with often incredibly funny results. Conti is the master at knowing just how far to take her stooges, maximising comedy without the need for any real degradation.

Conti’s comedy is skilful and astute, and while her ventriloquism is unquestionably part of the canon, it expands on it in intelligent and unexpected ways. No one, not even Conti, entirely knows what is going to happen next and this is really the shows main appeal, as it cannot help but be constantly fresh and exhilarating.