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Award-winning R-rated musical set to give Hornchurch audiences a chuckle

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 January 2016

The cast of hit musical Avenue Q, coming to Queen's Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, next month. Picture: Matt Martin Photography

The cast of hit musical Avenue Q, coming to Queen's Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, next month. Picture: Matt Martin Photography

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Big laughs will come to Queen's Theatre next month when the cast of an award-winning West End comedy-musical take to the stage.

Richard Morse as Brian and Sarah Harlington as Kate Monster in Avenue Q. Picture: Matt Martin PhotographyRichard Morse as Brian and Sarah Harlington as Kate Monster in Avenue Q. Picture: Matt Martin Photography

Famous for its risqué take on the vibrantly-coloured puppets of Sesame Street and The Muppets, Avenue Q tells a hilarious story of growing up, dreaming big and finding your purpose in life.

The production opened in New York to critical acclaim 12 years ago and while on tour has won awards worldwide for its tongue-in-cheek humour and seamless blend of puppetry and musical theatre.

The Recorder spoke to the show’s resident puppet coach, Nigel Plaskitt, about why he thinks Avenue Q has been such a hit and the difficulties involved in bringing puppets to life on stage.

“I think it’s because it resonates with everybody,” said Nigel, when asked about the show’s runaway success.

Nigel Plaskitt, the puppet coach for hit musical Avenue Q, which is coming to Queen's Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, next month. Picture: Avenue QNigel Plaskitt, the puppet coach for hit musical Avenue Q, which is coming to Queen's Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, next month. Picture: Avenue Q

“Everybody has experiences with The Muppets or Sesame Street and everybody has been through that 20-30 something period of their lives.

“And of course it’s a funny show.”

The irreverent humour of songs such as Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and The Internet is for Porn strike a chord with audiences almost immediately and, according to Nigel, that connection is very deliberate.

He said: “It’s very well crafted. Jeff Whittey, who wrote it, was very concerned when doing the original West End production that they spoke the script exactly as it was written.

Richard Lowe as Princeton in Avenue Q. Picture: Matt Martin PhotographyRichard Lowe as Princeton in Avenue Q. Picture: Matt Martin Photography

“I think he was right to do so, because he went to a lot of effort to make it work. And it does.”

One thing that makes the show stand out is the unapologetic way it forces its audiences to suspend their disbelief.

The actors operating the puppet characters are in view the whole time; it’s the work of those watching to edit them out.

“It’s remarkable, but after the first 10 minutes or so you don’t really see the actors that much. You’re just watching the puppets,” said Nigel.

Performers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PAPerformers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

The audiences’ willingness to accept the puppet characters isn’t the musical’s only achievement; the logistics of going on tour are impressive as well.

Each puppet has its own specially-designed flight crate to protect it in transit – there are five different puppet versions of each character and minor repairs are constantly carried out.

So surely Nigel, who estimates he has seen the show between 200 and 300 times, could be forgiven for feeling a bit disenchanted with his fuzzy friends?

“I still laugh at it,” he said. “When I’m watching it I have to remind myself that I’m not there to enjoy it, I’m meant to keep my eye on what they’re doing with the puppets and make sure they’re doing it properly.”

Performers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PAPerformers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

And as for Nigel’s favourite aspect of the show, it’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who has spent their career bringing puppets to life.

“I love the fact you go into a room full of people and they’re all laughing – I’ve never been in a situation where they haven’t!

“There are quieter and louder audiences, but there is always laughter.”

Avenue Q will run from Feburary 1-6 at Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch.

Performers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PAPerformers from Avenue Q at a previous fundraising concert. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

To book tickets, call 01708 443333 or visit queens-theatre.co.uk.

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