Avenue Q

1
The half-puppet musical goes on tour ...
By Robert Iles - 23rd May 2011

Ok, I confess, I just don't get it ... I mean, I get the plot (what there is of it), I get the style, I get the jokes and I have no problem with the crudity but really, does anyone think this is good theatre? Well, apparently, most of the audience (with the obvious exception of myself) did.

During the show several appropriate phrases crossed my mind, should I compare this to a dull and dated panto, a bad first year drama student showcase or just self indulgent trite drivel? Or all of the above? The show is set on a seedy block in a poorer suburb of New York and populated by Gary Coleman (a lost reference for so many of the audience), Wishy Washy (complete with dreadful cod Japanese accent) and a variety of stock people (and monsters) played mostly as puppets. The style is "tits, eyes and teeth, play it out front and give it enough wellie that no one notices how thin this is" - only they don't, give it wellie that is, perhaps they're tired but this was not an engaging performance, Rachel Jerram gets her lovely voice around some trully banal lyrics and Chris Thatcher really got the puppetry right (in that I watched the puppet not him!) but I just felt that the other's hearts weren't in it. Not even the wild applause and whistling when the cast got to sing a rude words could raise the energy of this production.

This audience was quite young, and for once I didn't mind them chatting all through it as it gave me something to be interested in - odd that some were talking about going to drama school, they clearly had no respect for the performers on stage ;-)  But I don't think age had anything to do with my reaction, barely a day goes by without me indulging in a South Park, I have seen and heard obscenities of violence and sexual misconduct depicted on stage in comedic, serious and bizarre settings but this, well this simply lacked any conviction and just seemed so old fashioned - alright if you find songs about porn and puppets saying they're off for a wank cause for a giggle but really ... jokes about porn on the internet are about as clever and 'now' as jokes about TV dinners ... this may be trying to be "adult Sesame Street" but actually, Sesame Street was funnier and more truthful ...

In a way, it was only the presence of the Gary Coleman character that made any sense, this is a piece of poor American sitcom writing like he used to deliver in the days before he was a nobody, or as he put it "before I sued my parents" a line which caused a number of people in my vicinity to have to explain to their colleagues before they knew what to laugh at.

It had a good run, and I wish it well for the rest of the tour but personally think it should probably slip away quietly after that ...


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