August 10, 2006

Muppet creators go adult

By Paul Majendie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The creators of The Muppets and
Sesame Street are staging a puppet show that is strictly for
adults only.

Miss Piggy would blush over the antics in "Jim Henson's
Puppet Improv" which spearheads a renaissance of puppet shows
for grown-ups at this year's Edinburgh Fringe arts festival.

Every afternoon at the Fringe, an anarchic troupe of
puppeteers led by the late Jim Henson's son Brian do an
improvisational show for kids.

Every evening the air turns blue as the show takes off into
surreal flights of fancy dictated by the audience.

"It is lovely to do a show where you can go wherever your
brain takes you," said Henson, after that night's audience
asked the puppeteers to play half a dozen hot dog puppets
auditioning to be Ricky Martin's backup singers.

But would Brian's father have approved?

"I think he would have loved it because of how outrageous I
get. My Dad really believed in community and sweetness but the
other side of him was incredibly naughty.

"He always said the only reason we did this was those
moments where it is like laughing in church. It becomes so
infectious you cannot stop laughing."

Henson, who has performed the improvisation show in Aspen
and Hollywood, would like to develop it into a TV show. Two
other projects he is working on are also just for adults.

"There is something really therapeutic for us about this
adult improv," he said.

Henson applauded the success on stage in New York and
London of "Avenue Q" and the hit movie "Team America: World
Police" which satirizes President George W. Bush's "war on

"Avenue Q was very, very clever. They are specifically
parodying Sesame Street with an adult twist. Team America is a
more unique choice as they decided to do it with marionettes."

Hyundai Puppet Theater, South Korea's answer to Henson, has
also won acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe with its production of
"Puppet City," and there are more puppet shows listed for
adults than children at the festival.

So does Henson, director of the Muppet Christmas Carol and
Treasure Island movies, feel puppeteers around the world are
trying to redress the balance so adults get a look in?

"Yes, absolutely," he said.

"The Americans are more action-oriented. They want to see
the puppets beating each other up.

"British audiences are more intellectual. They like to see
it sick and twisted, but in an intellectual way."