Avenue Q

Malvern Theatres


ALIENATION, despair and the search for meaning and purpose in life are themes that ostensibly Avenue Q is exploring in a light-hearted manner.

It uses such themes as a hanging-frame for some lively, modern and risqué songs, and humour that appeals to a younger audience than many shows passing through the Festival Theatre in Malvern.

This is a brilliant example of puppetry used to vivid and very clever effect, where the puppeteers are plainly visible alongside the characters they are projecting through the puppets. There is a basic storyline which introduce a range of largely young characters who are on a journey to discover meaning and direction in their confused lives.

The central pair of young man and young woman move from two lonely characters meeting and having a one-night stand, to a couple collaborating in a charitable and educational venture through which they find greater significance to their existence and their somewhat romantic but unstable relationship.

The musical touches on a variety of themes in a politically dubious manner: racism, gays, anti-semitism, pornography . . . it both revels in and scorns various forms of prejudice through its humour. The use of puppetry provides a medium in which the writers can portray crude elements such as oral sex and very non-PC attitudes and permissive humour.

The actors in this show are extremely skilful in a variety of ways. Most of them are actors, singers and puppeteers in a powerful combination. They switch characters in a twinkle and adopt the new accent and tone in a second. From Richard Lowe (Princeton/Rod) and Sarah Harlington (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) as lead performers with their excellent voices, through to the ensemble players, all demonstrated huge versatility, control and enthusiasm.

The songs are catchy, lively and witty, the music is played with great skill by the small band led by Dean McDermott, the lighting very atmospheric and the designer uses screens to project words and images to add humour and clarity. The set cleverly presents the street (Avenue) face of the community, but by means of various doors and hatches, reveals aspects of the interiors as well.

This musical depicts mostly young people on a journey to self-discovery; some find love and commitment, some identify their sexual orientation, some discover purpose in something beyond themselves as they make donations to a cause larger than themselves, and pioneer a charitable project to help others in need or vulnerable in their growth.

However this is not a work that in any way projects a moral message; it rather sets out to entertain with the risqué, the coarse and the vulgar. It succeeded in attracting an audience who are younger and less frequently seen in the stalls at the Festival Theatre. 17-10-15

Timothy Crow



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