Paul Zerdin has a wicked streak. On his own admission, he will stop a woman wheeling a pram in the street…talk to the baby in it…and then, using his ventriloquist skills, make the baby answer back…completely freaking out the mother in the process.
His natural naughtiness follows him onto the stage…only this time he brings his own baby, who will clearly grow up to be a prize fighter, and who says all sorts of things you would never expect to hear in polite company.
His head swivels to ogle the chests of well-endowed ladies in the front row; lunch clearly on his mind. Then he cracks a joke, the chests heave, and he does a nice line about milkshakes.
Paul Zerdin is a top-class performer at the top of his game; manipulating his voice with perfect precision and timing. He was brought up that way. His dad, Dan, was an eminent BBC World Service producer and his mum, Hilary Osborn, presented late shows on Radio 2. His ability to switch voices in an instant enables him to perform quick fire, rat-a-tat-tat conversations with his dummies; especially Sam the scamp, who claims he won ‘America’s Got Talent’ for Zerdin.
Together they have great fun with the very business of ventriloquism. When Zerdin makes his sponge doll say something dodgy, Sam just tells his to read your lips. Sam has been to a puppet party and does impressions of The Muppets to prove it. Apparently Rosie and Jim got bladdered and Pudsey outed himself as being gay. When Zerdin points out Sam is being a bit near the knuckle, Sam retorts that Zerdin is in it right up to the wrist.
His other characters are equally rebellious. Sam’s granddad has joined Alcoholics Anonymous. “I still drink, but under a different name.” And there is hardened security officer who reckons he’s so well trained no one can make him talk.
Zerdin’s support artist on this extensive tour is comedian Phil Butler – who appeared in the Theatre Severn panto last Christmas. But the Shrewsbury audience has wised up to him since. He should never have picked on Tracey because she’s smarter than he. There’s an air of Tommy Cooper about the way he moves from routine to routine and he does a neat double act with Siri – the font of all knowledge on his mobile phone.
For his finale, Zerdin makes dummies out of a willing couple from the audience who he fits out with mechanical masks. Kim and Phil were putty in his hand (the hand holding the remote-control unit) as they obeyed his every request to much hilarity. I just hope their marriage lasts.
Paul Zerdin’s American success was no fluke. He is disarmingly brilliant; and after his season in Las Vegas it’s a measure of the man that he hasn’t forgotten his adoring fans back home. He’s a unique talent – and is not to be missed.
Forthcoming shows include The Hereford Courtyard Theatre on October 13th; the William Ashton Hall, Wrexham on the 19th; The Stafford Gatehouse on November 3rd; :The Crewe Lyceum on the 21st and The Place at Oakengates on November 22nd.