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Theatre Review: Avenue Q

23 February 17 words: Isobel Davidson

The naughty musical is on at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, and our reviewer proper loved it...

In the world of musical theatre, Avenue Q has been labelled among the contemporary greats. Its masterful puppetry, along with its incredibly catchy songs are what made it a hit on both Broadway and West End stages in the first place.

I have a confession to make. I have never seen it before. Being a self-professed musical nerd, it can be rather embarrassing to admit that never before have I ventured to purchase a ticket to one of the most popular shows of the century so far. Of course, I had heard some of the music, along with ravings from friends who are thoroughly “obsessed” with it and its quirky ways. I had even seen the odd video online, however, for some strange reason, obscure to both you and I, I still had not found the time to see it in full.

Encores! Performing Arts decided to take on the feat of performing Avenue Q, a story about becoming an adult, the realisations you may find in life, and the anxieties you face when dealing with them, all on one street, with an eclectic mix of people. With songs such as, Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, If You Were Gay and You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want, it is a musical set to adult hilarity, harsh truths and what one would possibly consider ‘taboo’ subjects.

The show is perhaps most well-known for its use of puppets, alongside their all-acting, all-singing counterparts, all of whom function the puppets in full sight of the audience. An ambitious feat within itself, Encores! pulled it off with limited trouble. The puppets were of a professional standard, provided to the company by Paul Jomain, and the actors and fellow puppeteers did a wonderful job of using them to their whimsical effect. What was interesting was the impressive balance the actors used so as not to distract us from the puppets – actors’ facial expressions could have easily stolen the audience’s attention.

This actor/puppet balance worked well in this production, with stand-out performances by Anna McAuley as Kate Monster and Mark Coffey-Bainbridge who played Nicky. Both of whom not only managed to uphold this balance, but gave fantastic vocal and character performances in the process. Another mention must go to John Lowe, whose characterisation of Trekkie Monster is one to be admired – his voice provided the right amount of comedy, especially in the song The Internet is For Porn.

There were a few pauses, and a couple of technical difficulties at the beginning of Act Two, but this is typical of an opening night performance and the show carried on.

If I am being honest, I didn’t have the highest of expectations when it came to the technical aspect of the production, mainly due to previous experience of seeing smaller companies attempt to do a high-end show. However, the technical aspects were of the same standard of the performance. The aforementioned technical difficulties were dealt with efficiently, and the rest of the show was reliably lit, giving great effect to what could have easily felt stationary with minimal set changes. The PA system allowed for an impressive clarity, which complimented the high musical quality of the piece.

Overall, this production of Avenue Q was a pleasant surprise for this avid theatre goer. I walked out of the theatre to be greeted by the puppets themselves, completing the entire experience. I am sure that I will not be able to get the songs out of my head. Well, for a while at least.

Avenue Q is on at Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 25 February.

Nottingham Arts Theatre website

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