Review: 3*** Macbeth – The Musical. White Bear Theatre #MacbeththeMusical @WhiteBearTheatr @StageSplinters

Tweetingit: 3* Shakespeare meets Avenue Q in a refreshing new treatment of the Scottish Play. The pub crowd will love it!

Shakespeare productions are frequently accused of stuffiness and dense language. But just occasionally an adaptation will break down these barriers. Stage Splinters have produced just such a show with great imagination and potential. Using Avenue Q style puppets and engaging original songs they place Macbeth in an entirely new light. The White Bear is a lovely pub with a neat and compact theatre upstairs.  A basic set is adorned with a simple curtain from which performers emerge. Two TV screens project sketch images prior to every scene; which work surprisingly well although the screens could have been slightly bigger.

For the purpose of visualisation this is the plot they bring to life: somewhere in the Scottish moorlands Macbeth and Banquo, two of King Duncan’s generals come upon three witches. They predict Macbeth’s promotion and elevation to the Kingship of Scotland. It is also foretold that Banquo’s descendants shall be kings. Afterwards, King Duncan names Macbeth Thane of Cawdor in thanks for his success in recent battles, which seems to support the prophecy. Lady Macbeth receives news from her husband about the prophecy and his new title, and vows to help him become king by any means necessary.

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REVIEW: 5***** Avenue Q, New Wimbledon Theatre @NewWimbTheatre @AvenueQUKTour

#Tweetingit – 5***** Sesame Street with attitude, evil twisted bears, foul mouthed monsters obsessed with porn and puppets getting it on – you will love it!!

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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.

CcpqVwkWAAA8-EL.jpg largeThere’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 CdVgugMXEAAExrS.jpg largeare 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

http://www.avenuequk.com

Reviewer: Brian Penn