Avenue who? Meet the man who is bringing Muppet magic to Derry

Nigel also worked on family favourite 'A Muppets Christmas Carol'
Nigel also worked on family favourite 'A Muppets Christmas Carol'

You may not have heard the name Nigel Plaskitt before - but unless you happen to have been living under a rock for the last thirty years you will have seen his work in some form or another.

Reading Nigel’s CV is like a review of many of the most popular children’s TV shows, movies, advertisements and satirical comedy from the seventies onwards.

Nigel Plaskitt with one of the Avenue Q characters.

Nigel Plaskitt with one of the Avenue Q characters.

To give the briefest of snapshots of his career he has appeared in Dr. Who, in the hit 70s TV show Pipkins, as one of the men behind the puppets in Spitting Image and even as the man behind the mad Muppet drummer ‘Animal’ on a number of occasions.

It’s fair to say as I learned he had worked on one of my all time favourite movies - A Muppet’s Christmas Carol - I felt more than a little starstruck, and that was before I heard he had worked on Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors and Muppets Most Wanted.

And now he is the man who has helped bring the puppets “to life” for the UK tour of Avenue Q, which is set to arrive at the Millennium Forum from May 23-25.

He admits he has seen the show - a kind of Sesame Street strictly for grown ups - more times than he cares to mention. “But it always makes me laugh. I don’t think I could sit through it so many times if I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “Almost as soon as it starts it has me laughing and it seems to be the kind of show which people do go to again and again.”

Nigel was brought on board by the production company due to his remarkable experience as a puppeteer - and more notably due to his experience as one of the men behind the Muppets.

“I did fall into puppetry by accident though,” he admitted. It was when he cast in Pipkins as the presenter - and found he had to work his puppet companion, From then it led on to him working on 80s satire show Spitting Image, a show that he acknowledges “broke new ground” at the time.

“I think it was the subject matter which made it such a success. We were breaking new ground. It had been unheard of before to approach politics in such a satirical way. I think we flew close to the wind on a few occasions but it was a remarkable success.”

Could such a show air again now and would there be an audience for it? “There would be an audience for it, absolutely,” Nigel said, “But could it air again? I’m not sure. It was, even then, a very expensive show to make. But the bigger issue is that people would be more willing to sue now than they were then. It would be a different beast and without the same freedoms I’m not sure how it would translate.”

From the cutting edge of political satire, Nigel moved on to work with the Jim Henson team and played his part in creating many memorable moments for children of all ages.

Working on the likes of The Labyrinth, A Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppets Most Wanted gave him a chance to work with some of the top puppeteers in the world - “people like Frank Oz and Eric Jacobsen” and learn the very specialist form of puppetry which comes with working with ‘muppets’.

It was that skill which earned him the role as resident puppet consultant on Avenue Q, which is described as a a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of a recent college graduate named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets a variety of colourful types who help him finally discover his true purpose in life!

“It’s a funny show, but it has something to say,” Nigel said. “It’s a really intelligent, clever script and the lyrics all say a little something about the times we live in.”

Nigel has helped cast the performers - who appear onstage alongside their puppet selves. “It’s their job to make it look effortless but there is actually an awful lot of work to be done to make it run smoothly.”

Avenue Q has run around the world garnering huge praise - the show covers some fairly grown up themes from racism to sex and has an age restriction of 14 years and over.

For tickets call the Forum on 02871264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk