REVIEW: Avenue Q at the Kings Theatre

This review was written for The Student Advertiser in August, 2015. Read it here!


I had no idea what I was walking into last night (sorry, running into last night). The traffic surrounding the Glasgow King’s Theatre made it very difficult to navigate within the city yesterday – something I didn’t expect.

‘It’s only a puppet show?’ I thought, as I evacuated the car, just making it into the foyer by the skin of my teeth before the doors closed for the performance beginning.

The lights dimmed as my bottom landed on the seat. The complimentary performance programme was shoved into my handbag until the interval, rendering me completely unprepared for the events ahead. ‘I hope this is mum-appropriate,’ I wondered, smiling at my mother in the seat beside me. ‘I mean, how rude can a puppet show be?’

How rude can a puppet show be- HA! The music started flowing and immediately I associated the deceiving jazzy leitmotivs with innocence and Sesame Street – and what’s that other big kids T.V. show? Oh yeah, The Muppets! Fantastic. A puppeteer emerged in the corner of the stage and began to sing the opening number. I could hardly wait to relive my youth:

What do you do with a BA in English?

Pardon?

Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree.

Um, awkward…

It sucks to be me…

It does? I must suck too then.

I quickly realised this show was more like Bear in the Big Blue House on drugs than the fun-loving escape I had rolled my eyes over – and, I absolutely loved that!

Princeton (voiced by Richard Lowe) is fresh out of college with a BA degree in English and only now has he realised his ignorance. Like many, he hoped to leave the security of the lecture hall and instantaneously embark on a career due to having completed a degree and, like many, this has not worked out for him.

Princeton moves to Avenue Q where he finds his new neighbour’s lives – Rod (also played by Richard Lowe), Gary Coleman (Etisyai Philip), Brian (Richard Morse), Christmas Eve (Arina II), Kate Monster (Sarah Harlington), Trekkie (played by Scottish Conservatoire graduate Stephen Arden) and Nicky (Jessica Parker/Stephen Arden) – are a lot worse than his own. He endeavours to find a purpose – a reason for a living, a notion to keep on surviving. However, he soon realises that his identity is virtually unknown in the big apple and finding it is going to be much harder than he anticipated – especially if the Bad Idea Bears keep leading him astray…

Avenue Q is unique in that it explores extremely sensitive and current social topics like racism and sexuality through the lives of hand-held puppets, and in such circumstances of informality we are able to find them laughable. There is something much more acceptable in hearing about your biggest failures in life through a furry, felt monster than a real-life failing former child actor. Even though the actors are visibly voicing and controlling each puppet on stage, we seem to forgive them and even forget they are there at times.

Among the list of ridicule is internet porn (I urge you to listen to The Internet is for Porn – a genuinely exquisite theatrical highlight that rivals none like I’ve ever seen), homosexuality (see If You Were Gay), racism (see Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist), students, ethnic minorities, scientologists, Jews, drunkenness, virginity, Republicans and child actors – specifically Different Strokes’s Gary Coleman.

The execution of each role was of the highest possible standard, as many theatre go-ers tweeting the Avenue Q twitter page after Glasgow’s premier performance agree. A special recognition goes out to Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker. Not only is Arden a Glaswegian (here we, here we…), he and Parker were tested by voicing three (possibly more) puppets, sometimes switching between roles every single scene. If they were any sharper they might tear through that fabric!

Avenue Q is a five-star, laugh-a-minute production loaded with euphemisms, “to the bone” realities and outstanding musical numbers. It could not have been any further from my expectations.

Please note, while the poster may state that this show is suitable for ages 14 and up – no. Part of me, which I will never be able to retrieve, died inside sitting through select scenes beside my mother, a palm over my eyes.

Do not ruin their innocence quite just yet but by all means – wreck your own!

There are still tickets available for Avenue Q at the Kings Theatre – get them here!

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