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Good fun -- but lose the puppets

It might have worked better without the puppets. No, seriously.

A puppet-based musical extravaganza sounds great on paper, and we all know how well Avenue Q (Sesame Street after dark, basically) worked out. But lightning doesn't always strike twice. And there's no point in creating a cast of puppets if they're not going to add anything useful to proceedings.

But it's all about the storyline, right? I mean, that's all anyone has been talking about when it comes to Paul Howard's Anglo: The Musical. It is, essentially, the story of Celtic Tiger Ireland. Or, more precisely, the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank as seen through the eyes of key players, politicians and a dim-witted bodhran maker and his fiancee. And let's face it, when you're dealing with a production where a puppet Bertie Ahern literally walks away from a party just as soon as the buzz begins to die, that's all anyone is going to want to talk about.

Still, those who caught the aforementioned Avenue Q when it touched down in Dublin in April will know how far those folks will go to produce a human and puppet sing-along like no other. Here, Anglo tries really, really hard to be Avenue Q. It also goes out of its way to keep us pleased. All the jokes are in all the right places. So much so, that you fully expect an applause sign to light up after every single punchline.

Irksome

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a mess -- an awkward mish-mash of flat and forgettable numbers (Property Porn, We Are Where We Are) and irksome satire. It even has its very own panto villain (Mark O'Regan as 'Rich').

You could, of course, look past all this if the puppets managed to do what they're supposed to do. Unfortunately, they're so bloody lifeless that what should be the main attraction ends up looking like a shoddy afterthought. You want the 'Anglo Boys' to be sinister and maybe go nuts. But every single step is so carefully choreographed that the men and women whose arms these freaky-looking creations are an extension of, might as well be following arrows on the stage floor.

Indeed, there's a fine line between a clever idea and a well-produced stage show. This is just disappointing. **/***

Running until November 25


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