Thursday, 5 May 2016

Avenue Q @ The Palace, 3.5.16

Being a Twentysomething isn't short of ironies; you hate coffee but it’s your favourite beverage to drink in copious daily amounts. You’re in unpayable debt after getting a degree for a job you hoped would leave you never needing for anything, and there’s everyone’s favourite; already having the experience where you’re not experienced. Ultimately, you’re stuck somewhere between an adult and a child, working the gap between your big dream and the current pays-the-bills job. What can be said of the Twentysomething of today, is that we are adaptable and persistently know the only way to survive this quarter life crisis is to keep making new plans; hopefully ones that make us as happy as we were as kids. Can you remember how happy you were watching weekend cartoons, or Seasame Street? What if you could feel like that again?

At the Palace theatre, sitting in front of fresh faced musical theatre students the lights went down and two screens flicked into life, depicting a sickeningly happy cartoon sunshine as the company flourished into the opening number of Avenue Q.

The abundantly talented cast made it easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief and fall in love with the 11 puppet characters. The actors themselves become essentially invisible; it is the puppets that carry the identity and the spotlight. You may expect to find Big Bird, but we are not on Seaseme Street anymore. Instead we meet Princeton (Richard Lowe), a recent college graduate who finds himself wandering onto Avenue Q with a BA in English and eager to find his 'purpose’. There he meets the colourful (literally) and exceptionally funny characters that live there. All the residents are finding life to be a bit disappointing, but come to accept that this feeling of loss is “only for now” while they journey to their aspirations. 
A huge hat tip goes to Sarah Harlington who played the role of Kate Monster and the infamous Lucy the Slut, for her impeccable vocal ability. Other credit goes to my forever favourite characters, Gary Coleman (Etisyai Philip) and the deliciously devious Bad Idea Bears (Jessica Paker). 

The UK tour cast have brought back the essence intended by music and lyric writers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, which deserves huge congratulations. The production is ultimately a 'coming of age’ story and uses the Seasame Street metaphor as a device to satirize the anxieties felt going from childhood to adulthood. As children we are encouraged by such characters that we can be anything we want to be and build high aspirations, but fail to be told how disappointing life can be and that in life sometimes our options are limited. This is a sign of the times, and it is something every person in the theatre has felt or is still feeling - actors included. This point really hit home for me listening to the undergrad musical theatre students behind me, imagining that “one of us could be in this programme one day. Such and such, Arden school of theatre.” Unbeknownst to them I am already a graduate and it took me 3 years to land my first paid acting job with a longer wait for a second. But who am I to tell them life isn't that easy?  This powerhouse of a musical was doing a fine job of it, and by the same token the entire cast and creative team endured the same difficulties, but now have this success.

Avenue Q is bright, bold and ballsy. Funny where it needs to be, with a heart that is accessible to everyone. It can be easy to undermine musical theatre as just a sing-a-long 'isn’t everything great’ two-hour experience, but if you dig a little deeper and listen to what the writers, directors and actors have placed in front of you, you will see that this show is made of better fluff…I mean stuff 

Words: Kate Morris 

Photos: Matt Martin Photography 

No comments:

Post a Comment