Doncaster actress Sarah Harlington has had to master acting and singing on stage while working a puppet – and you can see just how well she does it when Avenue Q arrives in her home town next week.
Sarah said: “It’s a bit of a weird one. I’ve been acting for a few years and never done puppetry before. It’s an absolute gift of a job and I’ve got a new skill from it! It’s been really, really good.
“All the actors are visible the whole time so for the audience I think at first it’s a strange concept but it seems they become used to it very quickly.
“They really get involved in the characters and their journey very quickly, both the puppet characters and the human characters.”
She admitted that the show has its challenges for the actors: “It’s physically very demanding as the show is about two hours long and I have my right hand up in the air operating a puppet the whole time.”
Sarah is playing two roles, Kate Monster, who is a very sweet kindergarten teaching assistant, and Lucy the Slut, “who is quite the opposite!”
In one scene Sarah’s characters have an argument and she has to play both roles at the same time.
She said: “I have to have full concentration in case I get things wrong. Another actor is holding one of the puppets and in rehearsals it did take me quite a long time to get it right. It’s really effective and really fun to watch.”
Sarah described the show as “an adult Sesame Street. You still get puppets and life lessons.”
She said: “It’s about people trying to find a purpose in life. They live on Avenue Q, which is what they can afford in New York.
“They find out what they want to be and what they want to do.
“It’s a very fun show, very cheeky and rude in parts, which is why the recommended audience age is 14-plus. Some of the language and some of the scenes are unsuitable for a younger audience.”
She added: “It’s very funny with a warm heart to it. You do fall in love with the characters. It tackles issues such as casual racism and homosexuality as well.
“The writing is very clever. I think it isn’t just a comedy show, it’s a brilliant night out. You really invest in the characters and believe their stories.
“I absolutely love it. As far as parts go, it’s always been on my bucket list. I saw it when I was at drama school and thought, ‘I absolutely want to play this part one day’. The audience reactions every night are fantastic.
“It’s a great cast to be part of. I find myself watching them and laughing along. They’re brilliant!”
She said that lots of fans of the show have made their own puppets and sit in the audience with them, then bring them to the stage door to meet the actors.
Sarah said: “I can’t wait to come to the Cast theatre. I’ve seen it but I haven’t been inside yet. The closest I’ve ever got with a role was in Sheffield. It’s brilliant to come to Doncaster.”
The actress was born and brought up in Wheatley Hills and went to The McAuley Catholic High School, which specialises in performing arts.
She appeared in lots of school plays and went to the Riley School of Dance from an early age, also appearing in amateur shows at the old Civic theatre in the town.
She said that her school, dance school and family all encouraged her to go into acting and she went to drama school in London, graduating in 2010.
Since then, Sarah has worked constantly. Her career highlights so far include appearing in a lead role in The Human Comedy at the prestigious Young Vic Theatre in London and in musicals including Fame, Sister Act and a European tour of Hair.
Sarah’s real name is Hagan and she had to change it because another actor has the same name, so she opted for the place near Doncaster where her grandparents live.
Avenue Q is at Cast in Waterdale, Doncaster from July 7 to 11. Tickets from the venue, online at castindoncaster.com or call 01302 303 959