ADAM PETTIGREW has got his hands full most nights of the week.
On the first regional tour of Avenue Q – the award-winning adult puppet show about a luck-hungry New York street – operates Rod, an investment banker struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, and Princeton, the main character.
“Princeton is the sort of hero, or an anti-hero,” Adam says ahead of opening at the Lyceum on Monday.
“He’s just graduated from college, like me, and trying to find out what to do next with his life because no-one is now telling him what to do. It’s about him discovering.”
The story follows him to NYC with dreams greater than his bank balance, landing up in an apartment on Avenue Q, the only place he can afford. There he meets like-minded souls, loveably hopeless and seeking basic things such as a good job, love and a ‘purpose’.
Although there’s no direct connection with The Muppets, the expert who teaches the actors to operate their characters also works with puppet legend Jim Henson. Audience members clearly see the actor/operator who ‘shares’ the act with the puppet.
“The concept of it is taken from puppet television shows. The puppets can’t do every expression you would want to see and use so the actor does the other half of the expressions.
“They’re quite simple puppets. It’s only their mouths and arms that move. It’s an odd sensation because you are sharing the part.”
Adam saw the West End version before he auditioned and with some of the all-British cast doing multiple voices in American accents for up to four characters a night, he says versatility is demanded for the six-month tour.
Either way, it seems the puppets get away with stuff humans alone on stage wouldn’t. “It is an adult show. It’s got jokes and things you’d never normally be able to hear on the stage.
“There’s nothing like this touring. It’s hilarious but if we did this with just humans it wouldn’t have the same effect or it would come across as really harsh.
“The puppets and the way it’s directed, it’s done in the style of a children’s TV show, really innocently. They are just saying things you wouldn’t normally hear anyone say.
“There’s a childlike quality. They don’t think about things, they say what’s on their mind. There’s no maliciousness or analysing, they’re just saying it in an innocent way and commenting as a child would on life.
“There’s social comment but it’s all done in a light-hearted way you can take how you want. It’s not a lecture, but it is thought provoking because a lot is true. There’s a lot of heart with this show as well.”
Adam, who had been learning his craft on the London fringe circuit and regional theatres with plays and musicals, previously visited the Lyceum when a friend was in panto.
This time he will be on the stage singing songs like The Internet’s For Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist. Oh, and taking part in a puppet sex scene.
“Really,” he laughs. “It is very adult, quite graphic. That isn’t right for kids. It’s mainly between Princeton and Kate but others join in, pretty much the whole street’s at it by the end of the number, although not all in the same space.”