#Tweetingit – 5***** Sesame Street with attitude, evil twisted bears, foul mouthed monsters obsessed with porn and puppets getting it on – you will love it!!
Wimbledon usually means no more to me than the glorious fortnight of tennis every summer. But I’ve now discovered the beautiful New Wimbledon Theatre and Avenue Q; a riotously brilliant mix of puppetry, humour and songs. This show breaks all the conventions of traditional musical theatre; an antidote to the sugary, sweet boy meets girl, and we all live happily ever after scenario. Of course I enjoy a wholesome, naïve love story; but Avenue Q throws all the sentiment out in a refreshing change from the norm. Whilst the story was originally intended for the Muppets, it seems much closer to Sesame Street in style and approach. A street somewhere in New York is home to a host of colourful characters in both human and puppet form.
There’s Princeton, a college graduate who moves into Avenue Q; his neighbours Kate Monster, a teaching assistant; Rod, a banker and repressed gay; Nicky his lazy flatmate; Brian, aspiring stand-up comedian; his fiancée Christmas Eve, a therapist with no clients; Trekkie Monster, gruff loner who surfs the internet looking for porn and Gary Coleman, the building superintendent. They begin to argue who has the worst life as it sucks to be me bursts into life. Princeton contemplates his lack of direction and begins dating Kate; Nicky tries to get Rod to admit he is gay but gets thrown out for his troubles. The course of true love never runs smooth as the mischievous, squeaky voiced Bad Idea Bears pop up to whisper in Princeton’s ear; his budding romance with Kate is further derailed when Lucy the Slut begins to turn his head. But do we find the happy ending lurking at the end of the show?
What I love about Avenue Q is its complete lack of respect for convention. The puppeteers are visible and make no attempt to throw their voices as a ventriloquist act usually would; characters aren’t adverse to expletive language and the songs are defiantly un-pc; Everyone’s a little bit racist, The internet is for porn and You can be as loud as the hell you want (when you’re making love) are raucous, bawdy and provocative, but hugely entertaining and very funny. The puppets are fairly basic in their construction but that is all that is necessary; Trekkie Bear looks to be little more than a piece of fabric; no lower bodies for these puppets; just a pair of hands and a head do the job. This in itself heightens the skill of the puppeteers in delivering a performance of such quality. A sterling company of puppeteers were quite simply brilliant in their execution; Stephen Arden as Trekkie Monster and Sarah Harlington as Kate Monster were particular standouts.
Avenue Q first played London back in 2006 and don’t know how this show evaded my attention for so long. Yes, it’s for broad minded adults and if you’re easily offended then this isn’t the show for you. But honestly, with all the death, destruction and violence in the world, why can’t we laugh at badly behaved puppets? An innovative, sharp and extremely funny show; long may it reign.
Running until Saturday 19th March at New Wimbledon Theatre and then until May 21 on tour.
Director: Cressida Carre
Music and lyrics: Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez
Reviewer: Brian Penn