Review – Avenue Q @ Gielgud Theatre


Avenue Q Poster

When you hear the word musical, what is your first thought? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was men of questionable sexuality prancing around on stage and women with infeasibly high voices caterwauling away to various tunes so loaded with cheese that the bosses at Dairylea are shitting themselves.

Avenue Q is not like that. Not in the slightest.

If you were to associate a musical with puppets having loud sex and swearing at each other whilst another repeatedly masturbates to porn in the background, then that is a bit closer to one of the musical numbers in Avenue Q. I don’t think that I need to follow that sentence with an explanation of the fact that Avenue Q is definitely not suitable for children. Strong language, sex references and indeed sex litter the show, so unless your children are incredibly mature, it isn’t the best idea for an evening out.

I finally got to see the show on Saturday evening having wanted to see it ever since I first heard of its existence. Before I start the proper review, I would like to say it was INCREDIBLE!

I have been in possession of the soundtrack for almost a year now and thus know every word of all of the musical numbers and have always considered them funny. It’s incredible how much funnier they are in the context of the show and complete with a bit of performance.

For those who don’t know, the acting is a mixture of actors and on-stage puppeteers who do the voices for the characters whilst also operating them using a variety of different methods. There were even certain occasions where the actor voicing one of the puppets was in fact holding and voicing a different puppet at the time. It’s an intriguing way of working and one which works well and does mine laughs.

The lead actor in the current run is Daniel Boys who is, in every way possible, awesome. He was awesome during the show and he was awesome when we met him afterwards signing stuff and posing for photos. In fact, all of the actors were brilliant during the show, both vocally and in terms of comic timing. Some of the most humorous moments came from simply silence and a turn of the head or a quick gesture with the puppet. It was textbook theatrical comedy at its absolute best.

Avoiding the obviously hilarious characters like Trekkie Monster (the porn-loving furry fluff ball) and Christmas Eve (Japanese failed therapist), the best characters of the show were a delightful pair known as the Bad Idea Bears. Their purpose was to appear at inopportune times and persuade Princeton (the protagonist) to carry out bad ideas (such a buying a case of beer instead of something useful) in a deceptively cheerful and lovable manner. At one point, they tried to encourage Princeton to hang himself in a true exhibition of comic timing. Towards the end of the show, they announce that they have reformed and discovered Scientology, a joke that got mild reaction from the audience, other than our (internet-based) segment of the crowd who broke into rapturous applause.

It was an absolutely stunning show in every sense and it is one I would definitely recommend if you are ever looking for a musical to see or just something to make you laugh.

Review – Andy Parsons: Britain’s Got Idiots Live


Andy Parsons: Britain's Got Idiots Live

If there is any stand-up comic that gets a really raw deal out of TV appearances, it’s Andy Parsons. Despite being a regular on Mock The Week since the dawn of time, he is still known to most as “that bald guy who isn’t as funny as the others”. The reason why he doesn’t get the level of airtime as the others is because he isn’t cut out for the war zone situation that show conjures up. The entire half hour involves the comedians shouting over each other to try and fight their material into the show, a pursuit which Parsons doesn’t exactly excel at.

The pursuit where Parsons comes into his own is stand up comedy. He has had a prolific run of Edinburgh shows and several successful tours. His material consists of topical stuff, mixed with smatterings of the hugely in vogue observational style made popular by comics such as Russell Howard and the king of comedy at the moment, Michael McIntyre. None of what he says is particularly controversial so he won’t be causing very much controversy, but what he does continuously do in his shows is keep the laughter going.

Britain’s Got Idiots Live is his debut DVD release, a disc that has been thrown straight into an outstandingly crowded market over Christmas with almost all of the top comedians firing out their best shots at parting the public with their cash. Similarly to his appearances on TV, I’d imagine that this DVD could well be lost in the crowd, which would be a shame as it is truly a solid performance and a solid DVD release.

The Feature

The main feature is a solid 90 minutes of comedy. There isn’t really any point at which a really big laugh ensues, but Parsons is different to most comedians in that respect. Most comedians will happily spend five minutes telling a story to an almost silent crowd, anticipating a huge laugh when the story pays off. Parsons however prefers to fire off shorter jokes and keep the slightly lesser laughs rolling in.

The front cover of the DVD proclaims Parsons to be “the king of political comedy”, a moniker that he will be more than happy to take up and I must admit, it is more or less deserved. Although, he perhaps suffers by bringing his hammer of satire down on the kind of issues that don’t really interest the layman. His pinpoint observations about the absurdity of British politics and the people that run the country are very welcome indeed and gain some of the best laughs of his routine.

An area you wouldn’t expect Parsons to excel in is audience interaction, but he actually does so very very well. From his bantering with the stupid city boys on the front row to him realising he couldn’t take the piss out of the woman who worked at Barnado’s, all of the interchanges seemed to work well, although it did seem at times that he was relying on the jokes he had established with these interactions a bit too much and often to cover up some of his own weaker material, not that there was much of it.

In fact, one of the strongest bits of the show (and the spurring point for a lot of his later interaction) was an intriguing technique that involved him showing a film of some audience members taking their seats in the auditorium with Parsons commentating over the top as it went along. These were the people he tended to single out later on and he managed to mine some very good material out of them.

Plus, he called Peter Mandelson a cunt. Need I say more?

The Disc

Usually, the menus on comedy DVDs are very simple affairs to navigate. Unfortunately, this DVD has possibly the worst menu ever conceived. The concept is simple enough, but the colour of the font has been chosen awfully. The design reminds me of something conjured up by a small child using Photoshop for the first time. It means that is impossible to know what option you are choosing unless you have great eyes. It gets worse when you go down to the special features menu (right, click for slightly bigger size), which is almost completely illegible.

These extra features themselves are more worthwhile than those on a lot of comedy DVDs. There is of course the almost customary Live At The Apollo appearance, which contains largely recycled material, but is nonetheless a welcome addition to the disc. Added to that is a fairly entertaining outtake from the show during which Parsons attempts to re-do a joke, to no avail.

There is also a commentary to go over the live gig, but it takes a slightly different form from the normal formula as it is done in the form of an internal monologue with random thought interjections throughout the gig. This means that you don’t have to sacrifice understanding of the show to listen to the commentary, which is a great idea.

The final feature is somewhat odd, yet strangely entertaining at the same time. It features Parsons state how little he cares about DVD extras whilst some people listen and watch to the bitter end regardless of the content. As if to illustrate this, Parsons proceeds to silently and slowly paint a wall for around five minutes, at which time the video cuts off. Oddly amusing.

The Verdict

A solid debut disc for Parsons and there is no doubt that his strengths lay outside of panel shows and that is natural home is most certainly the stage. Unlike many DVDs of comedy, the extras actually offer something interesting and are worth watching. It’s just a shame he doesn’t get the publicity he deserves.

The disc fails to get a five star rating as the material sometimes feels a bit too safe and that menu screen really is terrifically awful.

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