The Dating Show (with Nina Conti) arrives at Brighton Dome on Tuesday November 30
Is there anything more contemporary than a comedy with masks that seeks to bring people together? This is what Nina Conti aims to achieve with The dating show, his new show coming to Brighton Dome on Tuesday, November 30, featuring a gallery of latex masks, a cheeky ape called Monkey and onlookers ready to laugh and maybe (just maybe) some romance. WRITTEN BY BRIAN DONALDSON
The idea for this new matchmaking affair came to Nina quite by accident during her previous show with masks, In your face. “When I used to do masks with an audience, I often ended up with love matches. 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? “
Nina had performed a few trials of her new work at London’s Soho Theater just before the pandemic hit, and has spent time away from the stage thinking about the best way to The dating show progress. “To keep it from becoming this hetero-normative thing, you want to involve everyone. 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. Then we put them on stage and put a mask on them, and had a very low-key conversation about their past relationships and what they were looking for next. Hopefully the ones we raise could be any type of person and not just the Cilla Black demographic.
For twenty years, Nina Conti has almost cornered the market of comedy circuits in ventriloquism. For those who haven’t seen his show, this genre may still seem a bit old-fashioned or easy fodder for nightmares thanks to spooky movies such as Death of the night Where Magic where, respectively, Michael Redgrave and Anthony Hopkins engaged in murderous rampages after being picked up by their ventriloquist models. When Nina was first approached by her former mentor Ken Campbell to consider ventriloquism, she was equally skeptical.
“I’m lucky I found it, because I never thought ventriloquism was a skill worth paying for. I would never have been to a ventriloquist show, and when it was suggested to me by Ken, I had no interest in it at all. I thought he was crazy! I don’t know if I upgraded it for nostalgia, but there was a specific light bulb moment. I was training with these horrible models, and it was so sassy and sassy – I didn’t like it. But then I remembered this monkey puppet that I had stolen from a companion, and I wondered if its mouth could move; I had to get stuff out and put my hand on his face, and then as soon as he started talking, I thought ‘woah! Everything you say is coming from a place larger than my own head. It was a very good feeling.
From there, Nina created critically acclaimed shows, and her sidekick Monkey became a cult figure. And she’s still a lone vent figure in the modern comedy world, a fact that surprises her. “I am delighted to be alone, although I have a feeling that there is one coming. . . I don’t really think the ventriloquist aspect is the best selling point of my show. This is a secondary problem that must be overcome as it still has a bad reputation. I don’t think people leave my shows thinking, ‘oh, that was a good ventriloquist show’. I think you can forget it’s a ventriloquist show; I know I do, to the point where later I’m like, “Oh, did I do the ventriloquist pieces? I can get carried away a little.
While there is a lot to love about Nina’s shows, the elaborate masks (which cover the lower half of a person’s face so that the eyes are exposed while Nina adds her voice to the debates) added a new dimension. at his work. “We’re probably going to be working with about 14 masks in total, because they have to fit the shape of the face or have their skin tone, and be male or female. I have a macabre dungeon of faces hanging from a rack. It may sound a bit S&M! I just ordered a bunch of new ones that you can tweak by adding a mustache or painting the lips differently. The guy I’m using is a ventriloquist in the Philippines, and his masks are very sturdy. But they really have to be. It’s horrible if they stop working halfway, because if that happens, the magic breaks down.
Having strong, reliable masks fixes a potential problem, but the element of risk remains as Nina is keen on keeping work fresh and making it as different as possible every night. She may have a structure in mind when she goes on stage, but working from a script is strictly prohibited. And just to increase the risk factor even more, she even added a musical element to The dating show. “It is above all a funny spectacle; I’m not really trying to match. It would be very funny if it really worked for anyone. The first time i did Living in the Apollo, I formed a couple and there seemed to be romance in the air, but I suspect they left the theater on their own. But I play songs. I did an improvathon with the The stars guys, making up a song as we go. I’m really bad at singing, but it’s funny when the date comes in song. And it turns out that a bad song is better than no song!
Nina Conti – The Dating Show is at Brighton Dome on Tuesday November 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at brightondome.org or by calling 01273 709709.
Nina won a British Comedy Award for storming ‘Live at the Apollo’, ‘Russell Howard’s Good News,’ Sunday Night at the Palladium ‘, and made a BAFTA-nominated film – all without even moving her lips .
Nina began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company before lawless genius and theater manager Ken Campbell inspired her to become a ventriloquist. In 2008, she won the prestigious Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for her solo show ‘Complete and Utter Conti’. In 2010, “Talk to the Hand” had sold-out seasons in Edinburgh, London, Melbourne, the Sydney Opera House and New York.
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