Nina Conti brings The Dating Show to the Grand Opera House


No sooner has the removal of masks become the norm than Nina Conti wants you to put them back on, all for the sake of her pioneering new dating game.

After a four-year hiatus since its In Your Face journey, the London ventriloquist-comedy will embark on The Dating Show tour on October 31, visiting the Grand Opera House in York on November 12 with 14 sturdy masks made by a ventriloquist colleague. in the Philippines.

“She will be like Cilla Black with masks on. Derailed. Not so much a Blind Date as a re-voice, ”promises the show’s spiel.

“Prior to this Armageddon success, I was developing a dating show where I would lead audience members to fall in love while wearing masks,” says Nina, 47. “After Covid, I don’t see anything more appropriate. I think we all need to get together in a room and laugh out loud, and if the topic can be love, so much the better.

There you go: a comedy show for 2021 with elaborate latex masks, Nina’s cheeky monkey, sidekick Monkey, a return to human connection, and the possibility of romance in the air.

As it turns out, The Dating Show’s matchmaking format emerged by chance from In Your Face’s use of masks. “When I did masks before with an audience, I often ended up with love matches,” she recalls. “The spectators often took it there with their body language. They could be a little friendly and a little affectionate, and I remember thinking, “I have to stop it like this or people will think I’m a sex freak!” What’s wrong with me !? ‘

“But then I thought maybe it wasn’t me forcing it because it just happens every time, so why resist?” And why not do something called The Dating Show? ”

After Nina experienced the new show in pre-pandemic testing at London’s Soho Theater, the lockdown allowed her to choose the best path forward. “To keep it from becoming this hetero-normative thing, you want to involve everyone,” she decided. “On the Soho shows, I started out with Monkey interviewing a bunch of people in the audience, and the one that got the most heat was the person I went with. I’m not looking for eccentrics, just sympathy. Hopefully the ones we raise could be any type of person and not just the Cilla Black demographic. ”

What happens next? “I just got a feel for the joke, got two people up there on stage, put a mask on them, and then quietly discuss their past relationships and what they’re looking for next.

“Let’s see who ties up and where it’s going. It could even be two straight men trying to solve the problem. As long as it’s funny, so much the better. I just want it to be funny.

Not all of his shows are scripted. “It’s just a comedy show! It’s a bit absurd, to bring people up on stage and ask them to sing a musical number to each other, or they could “ski” or “ride a hot air balloon”! Each sticker will be something crazy, ”says Nina.

“They won’t have a big script or anything. I put masks on them, covering them from under their eyes to their jawbones, then I speak for them, turning them into puppets, where I respond to their body language in the moment.

Nina loves interacting with members of the audience on stage. “I find people very endearing when they’re up there. It’s a mixture of celebration and their own bewilderment. They feel safe because I don’t ask embarrassing questions and it’s liberating for them with the mask because they don’t feel like themselves, ”she says.

“Maybe someone’s shyness is the real me, but sometimes the mask sets them free. Most people wear some kind of mask anyway: I know I do, being different in different contexts, but Monkey is great for me because he says things that I don’t need to object to!

There is the catch! Monkey is free to be the quick agent provocateur in the partnership between the ventriloquist and the model: the one with the smart mouth. “Yes absolutely! The model is the ‘brilliant’ in ventriloquism!” Said Nina.

Where does Nina keep Monkey when she’s not playing? “He’s kind of kept in the house. I travel lightly with it in my purse, and just throw it aside when I need to put something in it. Like something you know well, you stop treating it with reverence, but I would never do that on stage, ”she says.

In fact, she has more than one monkey. “It’s like Matrix, growing these embryos!” I have plenty of them and tend to use them for a while. Maybe six monkeys in 20 years. Each time I come back, I have to rub his face because I need him to look a little worn. I just started a new monkey in the last few months, using hair putty to dampen it to make it age! it reveals.

For the record, Nina isn’t looking to be the new Cilla with The Dating Show. “I don’t really do matchmaking,” she says. “Everything that happens next off the stage is beyond my control!” ”

Nina Conti, The Dating Show, Grand Opera House, York, November 12, 7:30 p.m. Ticket office: 0844 871 7615 or on

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