MICF: Avenue Q @ Chapel Off Chapel

Our knowledge of puppets mostly comes from ABC programming for kids circa 1995 – you know, The Ferals and Mr Squiggle. Luckily, as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the good folk of Trifle Theatre Company have decided to stage the adults-only musical Avenue Q – trust us, this show will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about puppets and/or musical theatre.

It’s a story as old as time – recent graduate Princeton has a BA in English and no idea what to do with his life. Low on money and motivation, he sets up in the seedy Avenue Q while he waits for his purpose to find him. Along the way he meets the monster-next-door Kate, housemates Rod and Nicky, the reclusive Trekkie Monster and a few other colourful neighbours. What sets Avenue Q apart from other musicals is its abundance of sex jokes, its understanding of the bitterly cruel nature of post-grad life, and the fact majority of the cast is made from felt.

The best thing about Avenue Q is its dirty humour, made all the more filthy coming from the mouths of puppets. Gems like ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and ‘My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada’ will have you laughing until you maybe pee a little (no judgement). You can look up most of the songs on Youtube, but nothing compares to watching it live. You also haven’t lived until you’ve seen a graphic puppet sex scene play out right in front of you – in between tears of laughter you will think “THIS – THIS IS WHAT THEATRE IS TRULY ABOUT”.

Trifle Theatre Co. has done a brilliant job with this show – it’s slick and well-rehearsed, and the cast manoeuvre the tiny stage at Chapel Off Chapel with ease. Singing and dancing on stage is hard enough, but the cast of Avenue Q take this to another level by wrangling puppets while they do it. Each performer is in plain sight – there are no cleverly placed curtains or mirrors here – and at first this can be a little confusing. Are we supposed to only look at the puppet? Is it rude to look at the actor with their hand up its arse? WHAT IF WE MAKE EYE CONTACT?! But after a while it all becomes part of the show – there is no actor/puppet divide, they are one and the same, you just need to go with the flow. Major kudos should go to Sarah Golding and Andy McDougall who manage to voice multiple puppets at once without even batting an eyelid. Another shout out goes to the brilliant Zuleika Khan – playing Gary Coleman is the role of a lifetime, and she does it with some powerhouse vocals and the right amount of sass.

Avenue Q is not the sort of musical you can bring your mum to, and not the kind of puppet show you can bring your niece and nephew to. But if you’ve just finished uni and have no idea what you’re doing with your life, or are just in need of a giggle at some dirty jokes, this is the show for you.

What: Avenue Q – presented by Trifle Theatre Company

When: 25 March – 11 April

Where: Chapel Off Chapel

For more info/ticket sales head to the Comedy Festival Website

Grace Kwyn


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