What A Load Of Muppets!

Avenue Q

Theatre Severn

16-20 February 2016

Stunning, Brilliant, Hilarious, Amazing and Awesome, These are just a few of the superlatives one could use in a description of this show. The Muppets for grown-ups is also something one could add.

Avenue Q is a beautifully crafted, written and performed show.

Those of us at fifty something, may well remember all those years ago, seeing the Muppets on TV and loving their irreverent and sometimes risqué sketches and jokes. They won the hearts of all of us and  they have remained in our psyche. ever since.  Well forget the early days the next level is here.

Initially the surprise is that there are no false walls for puppeteers to hide behind; in fact there is absolutely no attempt to hide the people working the puppets at all as they are so brilliant at what they do. Their bodies and even their souls are transferred to the little bit of velvet and fur fabric used in the creation of these wonderful puppets. Together puppet and human work so beautifully that all you see is the puppet coming to life. That takes genius to achieve

In this show, that is choreographed as tightly as any ballet and sung as beautifully as any opera, one is treated to such perfection that belief is entirely suspended as we were taken on a pretty sordid look into the street in New York, known as Avenue Q.

 Apparently at the lower end of the socio economic order of things, a move to Hell’s Kitchen was seen as an improvement, Avenue Q explores issues that we are all faced with in our daily lives. But in an hilarious way.

If you were to hear that you are going to be treated to a show that dealt with real issues like being gay is OK or admitting that we are all a little racist, we are all a little dissatisfied with our lot and we are all capable of taking comfort in seeing people worse off than ourselves, you would probably think twice about going. However wrap these issues up in a stunningly conceived puppet show where we are given permission to laugh at our foibles and take relief from the fact that, although we are all different, we all feel and think similarly about the same issues.

In a show that really isn’t suitable for little monsters, as the programme and pre-show publicity makes clear, we as adults are amongst our own and we can kick our heels off and hoot at how complex life is and just how bewildered a lot of us really are.

This is entirely correct. We as a society should have somewhere where our adults can safely get together and laugh out loud at things that as parents you couldn’t. Always thinking about family, (which is no bad thing) we seem to forget that a little adult time is thoroughly enjoyable. This show deals with this issue almost immediately and allows us to chortle at the double-entendres and the more direct allusions to sex and sexuality without the judgement of our offspring.

So how do puppets engage a grown up audience for more than two hours and still have them laughing at the end? The answer is simple but the work isn’t. Get a dedicated cast so incredibly skilful at what they do, so unbelievably committed in their characterisations, get an amazing score and a beautifully written script and you will be half way there.

You still have to get all those elements into the performance and you could be on to a winner.

Avenue Q does just that. This is a great show and if you can get a babysitter I would advise you go and see.

Technically the lighting is utterly flawless but just very, very occasionally , the live orchestra went slightly louder than the vocal and lyrics were lost. However that is simply rectified. In each space they perform in there will be problems that the technical wizards have to address. Just up a notch on the vocal mike at times, wouldn’t hurt. However, the impact on the overall show was minimal and as the company settles into the space this won’t even be an issue.

In summary; this truly is a wonderful theatrical experience.

Theatre Severn too needs commending for bagging this show for Shrewsbury. All of us who are able to see this amazing spectacle, should.  It’s hand clapping, whistle generating and loud cheeringly great!

This is a five star review.

Owen J Lewis.

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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