Sesame Street for adults – now, if that’s not enough of a hook to get you into a theatre, I don’t know what is. And “adult” it certainly is… If you’re offended by the appearance of an onstage nipple or four (albethey rather adorably fashioned from felt, rather than flesh), and/or balk at the prospect of witnessing those cute and fuzzy puppets of childhood memory crooning about the joys of internet porn and indulging in alcohol-fuelled romps – consider yourself duly warned. Personally, I found it all rather adorable, and, although I may not have been guffawing quite as heartily as certain sectors of Richmond’s opening night audience, an irrepressible grin was plastered across my face throughout. Using puppets to satirise the trials and tribulations of the irksome process of continuing to grow up once the all-encompassing wisdom dished out by Big Bird et al. has passed its expiry date (and attempting to address the impenetrable mysteries of adult life bereft of guidance – what do you do with a BA in English, indeed?) was the brainchild of Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez, who took the view that “cuddly puppets could get away with words and ideas that might seem offensive coming from human mouths”.
Mind-bendingly, the black jean-clad actor-singer-puppeteers share not only the stage-space, but the emotional and physical reactions of their felt chums. The resulting impression of indivisible human-puppet units is testament to the prodigious talents of the humans involved, who manage to imbue their felt friends with such “humanity” that we only rarely glance up to check how their own facial expressions compare.
A couple of references float a fraction over the heads of a non-American audience, though this version of the production is peppered with UK-centric references (…are you listening, Mr Prime Minister..?). As delightedly anti-PC-brigade as ever, the puppets deliver some startlingly simplistic, yet ever-timely home truths via the medium of infectious musical satire. Joyous tongue-in-cheek romp though it may be, don’t be surprised if you find yourself picking out the puppets in your own life. And, after all, who hasn’t fallen victim to their very own irresistibly appealing Bad Idea Bear? If only there were another episode tomorrow…
Avenue Q is at Richmond Theatre until Saturday 31st October, before the UK tour continues. See all tour dates and book tickets here.