Avenue Q

Reviewer's Rating

They’ve done it again – only this time it’s even better!  The New Wimbledon Theatre has a habit of putting on great shows, but I thought there must be something special about this one when, as the show was due to start, there were still queues of people trying to get in.  It was indeed a full house.  What was the attraction?  Would you believe – a puppet show!

Avenue Q is the love child of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show – shows for kids which also had adults unashamedly glued to their television screens.  The puppets here are equally cute and lovable, but they are also very rude.  This is definitely not a show for children.  But although it may be rude, it is not crude.  The dialogue and the lyrics are very clever.  So good, in fact, that it is worth seeing the show again just to catch the wit and humour that you may have missed the first time round, so thick and fast does it come.  But the tunes are good too, and well sung, with some beautiful harmonies, all backed up by an excellent band.

The outstanding feature, however, is the puppets themselves, and the way they come alive on the stage.  These are not puppets on a string.  They are carried around on the arms of their handlers.  But they are not ventriloquists’ dummies, either.  The handlers speak their lines and sing their hearts out quite openly, while our attention remains riveted on the puppets.  Puppet and puppeteer are one, and we scarcely notice the human intervention.  There are also some actual humans playing roles on the stage, and they interact perfectly naturally with their foam-made counterparts.  Yes, the acting is not wooden, and neither are they!

Essential to the theatre is the suspension of disbelief, and it is surprisingly easy to believe in these puppets as real characters, and to be moved as well as entertained by their misadventures.  But as puppets, they are able to get away with things that human actors could not perform in a public place.  There is a scene in which a boy-puppet and a girl-puppet have sex in all manner of positions, and it is quite hilarious.  The puppets are also able to say politically-incorrect things which, at a time when people seem ever more ready to take offence, might not sit well in the mouths of human actors.  The titles of some of the songs will give the flavour of it : “It sucks to be me”; “If you were gay”; “Everyone’s a little bit racist”; “The Internet is for porn”.  Particularly topical is “What do you do with a BA in English?”  No one was offended.

Indeed, who could be, with all that nice singing and dancing, and such a clever script?  No wonder this show is selling out.  You had better be quick if you want to catch the remaining tickets at this venue.  The show has only a short run, ending on Saturday.