Pleasance, Edinburgh
August, 2002

*** The usual package deal: one act terrific, two so-so

MC Pat Monahan is lairy and Karl Minns nervous of his cleverness, but Nina Conti's ventriloquism makes it all worthwhile.

I suppose part of it depends on the audience, although we seemed to be an okay bunch. Certainly Monahan got on pretty well with us he doesn't really have much material to speak of, relying on his brash Middlesbrough affability, but he passes the time agreeably enough. Minns has a sharp mind which he demonstrates in some high-speed set-piece verbal riffs, but unwisely shows his agitation when we don't lap it up as much as he expects.

Which leaves Nina Conti, who opens with the risqué line, "I can't believe I'm going to show you my monkey!" Her monkey is a ventriloquist's dummy. Conti (daughter of actor Tom) caught the "venting" bug from Ken Campbell, who wrote a solo show for her on last year's Fringe. She has now become so enthused that she's ditched acting in favour of ventriloquism, and boy, is she good. Not only has her technique improved noticeably in the past twelve months, but she's really found her doll's personality - a deadpan, sometimes foul-mouthed cynicism quite at odds with its cuddly appearance. There's good interplay of personalities and the usual gags about venting itself. Sheer joy at the end of an otherwise patchy hour.

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