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I, Kermit at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Created in the 1950s by Jim Henson, The Muppets remain a staple of American culture. In the UK, the word ‘muppet’ may today be most often encountered as a term of mild abuse but on television in the late 1970s, The Muppet Show was simply huge, regularly pulling in 14 million viewers. The format was simple: sketches with celebrity guests, held together by a frog called Kermit. Kermit first appeared in 1955 and was voiced by Jim Henson until his death in 1990 when Henson’s widow and his son asked one of the puppeteers on ‘The Muppet Show’, Steve Whitmire, to take over the role. Whitmire played Kermit – and other characters – in 11 feature films, including the best-known The Muppet Christmas Carol in which he appeared as Kermit who in turn appeared as Bob Cratchit to Sir Michael Caine’s Scrooge. In 2016 Whitmire was sacked and Henson’s daughter lambasted the actor for reducing Kermit, in her opinion, to “a bitter, angry, depressed victim” …

I, Kermit… which is the starting point for Charlie Sharpe’s wry and episodically amusing new play I, Kermit, set – it would appear – in Whitmire’s apartment. Whitmire is played by Miles Blanch who is not the age that Whitmire would have been in 2016, nor is he American nor a ventriloquist. Nevertheless, despite a slightly actorly performance, Blanch shows why it’s “not easy being green”, capturing the frustration of the rejected performer and the schizoid traits that might be expected in a long-serving Muppet puppeteer. His alter ego Kermit appears in two forms: as a puppet, manipulated by Blanch; and in human form, played by the author Charlie Sharpe. While puppet-Kermit is convincing, Sharpe-Kermit seems less so: he is wearing comedy feet but, oddly, not the feet of a frog; and he enters and exits with no obvious motivation. The play’s structure and technical details also need work: the blocking is not as effective as it could be and there are too many overlong blackouts when none is really needed; a voiceover explanation of what happened to Whitmire comes late when the audience required it at the start; and at the beginning and towards the end of the play a song is performed in an awkwardly positioned but charming silhouette cameo which would have had greater impact had it been played only once at the end.

Billed as “an exploration of the seven or so layers that make a certain frog the most bizarrely complex and nuanced piece of art in Western history”, I, Kermit is certainly ambitious. The talented Charlie Sharpe is definitely onto something and he shows that there is indeed a play to be written about ‘Kermie’ and those “seven or so layers”. However, that play isn’t I, Kermit. At least not yet.

3 Star Review

Louis Mazzini

First and foremost, right, you’ve got the frog. He’s a frog. That’s where it starts, that’s where it ends.’

‘I, Kermit’ by Charlie Sharpe follows a fictionalised account of the life of Steve Whitmire following his dismissal from the Jim Henson Company in 2016. Now working on a new act with his partner, The Frog, Steve finds himself hounded by his flatmate, Kermit, who insists that maybe it’s time to take the puppet off.

An exploration of the seven or so layers that make Kermit the Frog the most bizarrely complex and nuanced piece of art in Western history.

WRITTEN BY: Charlie Sharpe
DIRECTED BY: Selwin Hulme-Teague
OTHER CREATIVES: Antoinette Simon (Graphic Design)
RUNNING TIME: 60 Mins (No Interval)
Twitter: @WetBeeCantLeave
Instagram: @WetBeeCantLeave
5th – 9th July 2022

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