Form an orderly Q for some profane puppetry

Nigel with Trekkie

Nigel with Trekkie - Credit: Archant

Puppet show that was a West End hit is being revived at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate - but don’t take your children

Often marketed as Sesame Street for adults, Avenue Q struck a chord with New York audiences in 2003 with its savvy blend of humour, heart and unapologetically raunchy puppetry. Ten years later, backed by a number of Tony Awards and an acclaimed spell in the West End, Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre director John Plews is taking the show back to its roots.

“What people don’t realise about Avenue Q is that it was originally done in an off-Broadway theatre back in 2002,” says Plews.

“The original theatre seated about 200 people, a bit bigger than ours. So, in many ways, we’re bringing it back to its original home.”

One of London’s premiere fringe theatre venues, the Gatehouse, unlike many other independents, has built its reputation on revivals rather than new writing. With a cast of only seven actors, who notably act alongside their puppets, Avenue Q has long appealed to Plews as both a director and a fan.

“I saw Avenue Q when it debuted on Broadway, then again when it came to London and absolutely loved it. People had never seen anything like it on the stage – not just with the puppets but with the actual actors being a feature alongside them. You virtually never see the puppeteers on Sesame Street on TV or the person who’s got his hand up Kermit.”

Having heard on the grapevine that the rights were coming up, Plews made use of his good relationship with the company who owned them to make sure the Gatehouse was at the front of the queue. With rights assured, it didn’t take long to put together a team that should ensure it more than holds its own with its West End counterpart.

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“We have the same guys making the puppets as the ones who did the UK tour,” Plews says. “They’re wonderful and look very cute, a set of 32 of them are being put together as we speak.

“One of the guys, Nigel Plaskitt, is going to do some puppet workshops too. He’s also working on the new Muppet movie and has previously worked on Avenue Q and Spitting Image. We were at college together many years ago so I charmed him and twisted his arm until he got involved.”


Who then does Plews hope will come to see the show? While it could appeal to those who missed the West End show or are simply intrigued by the idea, he makes it clear that this is very much a show tailored for adults.

“As many people know, it’s not a kids show, it’s certainly a little raunchy. There’s a famous song, for instance, sung by a big monster called Tracey, called The Internet Is For Porn. So if anyone turns up with a seven-year-old, for instance, we’ll quietly advise them it’s not for them.”

n Avenue Q is at at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from May 16 to June 30.