Ventriloquist Nina Conti has this week returned to the stage with the second run of her fantastic show Dolly Mixtures. First debuting in Edinburgh in 2012, the performance involves seven puppets, who each represent a stage in the Seven Ages of Man, from infancy through to extreme old age. Whilst the initial tour was a huge success, the second run, which spends a week in Soho before moving on across England, looks set to do even better. All of the dates at Soho have now sold out, with tickets for other venues selling quickly. It is certainly a far cry from where Conti was at just a few years ago, with the performer planning to quit ventriloquism back in 2008 in favour of studying at the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
Following the death of Ken Campbell, her mentor and former lover, Conti embarked on a pilgrimage to the World Ventriloquists’ Convention in Kentucky. The journey, which was recorded in her Bafta-nominated documentary Her Master’s Voice, rekindled Conti’s love for ventriloquism, as she discussed in a recent interview with Metro:
“I was doing moderately well, ticking along. But I just couldn’t see a future as a ventriloquist. The process of making the film changed that – it’s the work I’m most proud of.”
In keeping with the directions that Campbell left in his will, Conti also took along all of his dummies to be retired in the Vent Haven museum, which displays the dummies of dead ventriloquists. Amongst the dummies retired was Granny, who was given to Conti by her mentor. However, Conti had a replica made and the old Scotswoman remains a part of her act. Her main puppet Monk makes an early appearance in the Dolly Mixtures show, acting as master of ceremonies. Other characters include a dangerous dog, who is trying to escape his violent past, a sleazy European builder and a younger version of Conti herself. See here for more details on the Dolly Mixtures tour.