In April, WOW’s own Sam Froudist was invited to spend the day with the cast of ‘Avenue Q’, the infamous puppetry musical now touring the UK for the second time.
‘Avenue Q’ first appeared on my radar when I caught the show during its West End run in 2006. Covering topics as varied and taboo as casual racism and porn, it’s not exactly the kind of show you would expect to take the world by storm, but evidently, it did!
I’m given the opportunity to meet the real stars of the show, the children’s-show-hosts-but-ruder puppets, and I am rather taken aback by the thin layer of plastic covering some of them, (how do they breathe?), as well as the sign that simply states, “Please do not touch the puppets, unless they touch you first”. I shudder to think!
I’m fortunate enough to speak to Sarah Harlington, the actress playing the lead role of ‘Kate Monster’, as well as the femme fatale of the show, the aptly named ‘Lucy the Slut’. Harlington barely takes a breath before answering my question on the greatest challenge of this production, “The puppets, absolutely. I’ve never worked on anything like this before. The first time I picked up a puppet was at the audition!”
As we speak I can see why she got the role, coming across as sincerely nice, in just the way that I imagine ‘Kate Monster’ to be. But working with puppets hasn’t come easily, “We had physio this morning and pretty regularly [during rehearsals]. Although you hold the puppets [close to you], when you’re holding the position for more than a few minutes it puts a real strain on your arm”. Harlington demonstrates hilariously for me, “I’m going to have one really ripped arm, and one scrawny one by the end of the tour”.
The show’s content still remains shocking more than ten years after it first appeared on the stages of off-Broadway. But somehow, seeing a puppet get freaky on stage instead of a human gives an audience permission to engage with the discomfort, which soon gives way to enjoyment, and dare I say it, politically incorrect laughter.
We’re treated to a truncated 25-minute version of the show, and gosh-darn it if I’m not accidentally singing along within the first five. The music is so incredibly catchy, that as soon as the ensemble begin their opening harmonies, I feel my blood pumping and my heart swelling, the way it does when I’m being treated to a proper musical. This may be a modern comedy show, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a serious theatre pedigree.
‘Avenue Q’ will be touring to venues around the UK, coming to Kent’s own Orchard Theatre in Dartford from the 23 to 27 June 2015. Part flesh, part felt and full of heart, the show tackles modern issues that remain taboo, even in our 24-hour, Internet savvy society.
As Sarah Harlington says, “You will go away from the show uplifted and with a smile on your face. Just don’t bring the kids”.
For more information, to watch a trailer and to book tickets head to The Orchard Theatre Website.