Paul Zerdin: All Mouth, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury - review
It's a quirk of British theatre that a man can get a standing ovation for spending the best part of 90 minutes stood on a stage talking to himself.
But the applause and cheers were well merited for America's Got Talent winner Paul Zerdin, who had the crowd roaring with laughter with his ventriloquist act and his many puppet friends.
It's only when you get to watch a ventriloquist at close quarters that you get to appreciate the true skills of their craft.
Zerdin's show was full of quick fire one-liners and a few jokes that overstepped the line of decency and prompted groans from the crowd.
It goes without saying that his ventriloquism skills are top notch – there's not a hint of movement from his lips and he has a strong command of a range of very different voices.
But his control of the puppets and sense of timing brings his characters to life and helps them engage with the crowd.
First the audience met cheeky boy Sam – who wasted no time in claiming the credit for his master's talent show success.
A baby who didn't like being touched, Sam's granddad Albert and Secret Agent Man also made appearances – each with their own distinct voices and persona. While Sam was argumentative and brash, Albert mixed being a dirty old man with the typical travails of old age – at one point "falling asleep" mid-sketch.
But then came the part we all love – when two unfortunate members of the audience Phil and Kim got pulled up on stage and made to wear face masks. All they had to do was sit on stage – with their mouths and voices fully controlled by Zerdin.
What started with some cheeky domestic banter ended with dancing musical-style on stage – all totally off-the-cuff and unrehearsed.
It was this pair who truly were the stars of the show, as evidenced by the huge round of applause they got and a free DVD handed to them by Zerdin.
A word must be said for support act Phil Butler, who capped off an entertaining cameo with a quite extraordinary trick. Having asked audience members a selection of questions, he managed to produce an "insurance policy" document that had spent the whole act hanging up out of reach on stage that had all the answers printed on it. I still have no idea how he did it.
Zerdin had already conquered America – by the end of this show he had well and truly owned Shrewsbury too.