Friday 31st May 2013
Emily writes about her experience of Avenue Q at Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Avenue Q has always felt to me the musical of our generation. Perhaps it's because I first saw the show in my second year of university, when my resounding concern really was 'what do you do with a BA in English, what is my life going to be?’
In the same way that George Orwell used allegory in Animal Farm to talk about very human problems under the guise of the animal kingdom, Avenue Q achieves the same effect using puppets - furry mouthpieces singing their way through our biggest fears - being broke, unemployed, lonely and without purpose. It’s a show that parades as sheer, outrageous fun yet its fluffy hand puppets allow us to talk about things that would make for pretty uncomfortable viewing otherwise.
Last night I made an overdue, first visit to my local fringe venue, Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, which is currently playing congenial host for the first fringe production of the musical Avenue Q. Produced by resident company Ovations, John Plews has directed, with musical direction by Simon Burrow, and choreography by Grant Murphy.
The company have wisely called upon original London cast member Simon Lipkin as associate director, and puppet coach Nigel Plaskitt, ensuring this fringe run lives up to its West End big brother, staying loyal to the original puppetry magic created in the larger spaces of the original production. Yet, the imitate fringe setting brings a heightened charm to the piece - there’s no where to hide, and belly laughs were deeper felt than when sat in an anonymous sea of a large dress circle.
It felt a treat to be so close to these musical performers, with not a bead of sweat or subtle gesture missed. From the front row you can really see how hard the actors are working. This is a real ensemble show, requiring consistent contributions to the collective energy, and some serious chutzpah from the actors. Particular praise goes to the vocally athletic and charmingly comedic Josh Wilmott who doesn’t drop a shot as Trekki Monster and Nicky and the brilliantly cast leading team of Will Jennings and Leigh Lothian, both showing stamina, diversity and natural comedy as Princeton/Rod and Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut.
I recently listed 5 musicals perfect to take an apprehensive boyfriend to in my blog post Macho Musicals. Avenue Q nearly made my list - and I assure you this production is a serious contender. It’s a top show to convince a theatre skeptic that musicals can entertain, but also provoke, explore and enlighten.
Avenue Q runs until June 30, so there's still time to see it. If sex sells, then the naked puppet intercourse should leave this run sold out. Visit www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com to buy a ticket.