Brisbane Arts Theatre is once again hosting the delightful, politically incorrect musical, 'Avenue Q', for the fifth and final time (for now) this November.
'Avenue Q' is “'Sesame Street' for adults”, according to Brisbane Arts Theatre Artistic Director, John Boyce. The musical follows Princeton, a bright-eyed and broke puppet, who moves into a run-down area of New York called 'Avenue Q'. It details the lives of the humans, puppets, and monsters who live there and their realistic young adult obstacles: unemployment, relationships, addictions.
“I love to talk about 'Avenue Q',” John says. “We're very proud of the fact that this theatre has been associated with it for so long. The actual producers allow us to say that we’re the Brisbane home of 'Avenue Q'.”
“It's won tonnes of Tonys. It's a little tongue-in-cheek, a little rude in places. It's not always politically correct but it’s done in a way that is still relatively inoffensive – even though it satirises subject matter that might be seen as a little wrong to talk about. It addresses the concept that nobody truly is special in life; we're all given the same opportunities in life and it's how we take these opportunities.”
“['Avenue Q'] has almost become a yearly event. Every time we've completed one in the past, I've always thought it would be the last, but it's been so extraordinarily popular, we just keep bringing it back.”
The musical’s popularity stems from its overwhelming relatability. “The audience becomes very reactive to it even though it's a musical that first appeared in 2003,” John says. “There are a heck of a lot of [issues] that are still relevant.”
Racism, for example, hasn’t been addressed and filed away as a past event. “The puppets allow us to address certain topics because they're laughable and silly, and far removed from society.”
“It's not necessarily people saying these things and having these discussions. It’s puppets,” John explains.
“There's this wonderful make-believe 'Sesame Street' kind of world that we're allowed into as these people talk about their life's aspirations and ask ‘have they lived up to their childhood dreams?'”
“If the performance is good enough, you're not watching the actor or his actions, you're watching the puppet. We're putting life into that puppet itself.”
“The audience stops looking at the actor, and instead views the world from the puppet's eyes. That's why comical device is so important. It relies upon naivety and innocence, and makes it accessible.” There is no real malice in these characters and the audience relates to that.
But no matter how much John adores the musical, he says that this will be the final season. “It’s nice to be part of something that brings so many people together and brings them so much joy. We absolutely love it, but it's probably wise for me personally to give it a rest.”
“We’ve been doing it since 2011. I know that it makes the audience happy and also I love working with the particular guys I've been collaborating with across the years. The majority of the cast have been involved in one or the other of these incarnations. They've all pretty much done 'Avenue Q' before.”
“[The puppets] have become family to us. And there's not just one. There are actually quite a few of them getting around nowadays.”
“We'll have a few tears no doubt, but there are other areas that we need to look at. This will be the last one for a while.”