The Muppets are back! But not as you remember them from children's shows Sesame Street and Muppet Treasure Island.
Featuring an alternative grown-up cast of fuzzy friends, the widely-acclaimed West End musical ‘Avenue Q’ will be stopping off at the New Wimbledon Theatre next month.
Pitched at an adult audience, the show tells the story of a bright-eyed graduate, out-of-work comedian, therapist, Internet ‘sexpert’ and their puppet neighbours in a New York suburb as they struggle with growing up, dreaming big and finding purpose in life.
Louisa Clarence-Smith catches up with performer Stephen Arden ahead of the show.
Louisa Clarence-Smith: What can audiences expect from the musical?
Stephen Arden: The story-line is an adult version of Sesame Street. It follows the main protagonists as they discover all the problems of adult life in a downtown suburb of New York.
LCS: Trained at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, you've performed in musicals like Spring Awakening and Clinton the Musical. What's it like starring alongside puppets?
SA: It's probably one of the hardest jobs I've ever done. It was a complete challenge to take the skills I already have in terms of singing, dancing and acting and making that translate through one limb.
LCS: Do you think they are able to transmit all the complex emotions dealt with in the story?
SA: I think the puppets can be a lot more truthful than humans can be. You forgive them a lot of the language because they are puppets and are given a sort of licence to misbehave. Part of the appeal of the show is to see these puppets in use in ways you wouldn't expect.
LCS: You play Nicky and the Trekkie Monster in the show. Can you tell us about them?
SA: Nicky is a happy-go-lucky parody of Ernie from Sesame Street. He's a bit lazy and he lives by sponging off his investment banker friend, but he's got a heart of gold.
Trekkie Monster is a monster who lives above the avenue and spends his time looking at porn. Whenever anyone calls him he says he's busy.
LCS: Do you think the story is relevant to contemporary social issues?
SA: The show's now 10 years old so there are some issues that have moved on but I still think issues like having enough money to get a flat, porn addiction and coming out are relevant.
LCS: Why did you want to take part in the show?
SA: I saw the show in London when it first opened in 2005 or 2006 and doing characters was always my thing and I could do their voices so when the opportunity arose I took it. It's a bit of a dream come true.
Avenue Q; New Wimbledon Theatre, 93 The Broadway; August 26 to 30; Tues to Thurs, 7.30pm; Fri, 5pm and 8.30pm; Sat, 2.30pm and 7.30pm; £17.90 - £42.40; atgtickets.com