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Shrektacular family fun

Shrek the Musical has arrived from Far Far Away and is at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from 14th March to 25th March, Karin Johnstone has sampled the fun…

It’s no surprise that a musical version of the Dreamworks film Shrek will pull in audiences but the surprise is that, this musical, lives up to its promises of being Shrektacular. I’ve never heard a Northampton audience cheer before on an opening night. This might have been helped by the children in the audience who sat in rapt attention throughout.

The story closely follows the film plot with Shrek and Donkey going on a long journey to rescue Princess Fiona and take her back to her Prince – Lord Farquaad. As with all ‘once upon a time’ stories the show opens with a massive green book on stage with a large ‘S’ on the front and little ogre horns at the top. The pages of the book peel back and draw us magically into the story of how Shrek came to live as a loner in a swamp. This effect is just a small taste of the incredible theatrical effects to come. It’s no wonder that the set and costume designer Tim Hatley is award winning. Prepare yourself for a spectacular journey with castles, swamps and dragons.

Marcus Ayton as Donkey. Shrek the Musical. Credit Helen Maybanks

Then onto the stage dance most of our favourite fairy tale characters. These are no ordinary fairy tale characters. They are from our world dancing with diversity like the cross-dressing bad wolf, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan, even the talking Gingerbread man. The hulking green ogre, played by Steffan Harri, perfectly captures the essence of Shrek. A loner who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. For such a big ogre his voice is honeyed and melodious. His sidekick with attitude Donkey, is the essence of a feisty mule. Donkey played by Marcus Ayton gets some of the best bluesy riffs and songs in the show.

Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. Shrek the Musical. Credit Helen Maybanks

It’s hard to pick out individual cast members since the energy and enthusiasm of every single one deserves a mention. Even the puppeteers who bring to life a gigantic dragon played beautifully by Lucinda Shaw. Call the Midwife star Laura Main with her sweet pure voice gives an engaging performance, playing a rather manic but spirited Princess. Lord Farquaad, played by Samuel Holmes is a camp little Prince, who turns out to be the son of one of the seven dwarfs. His little legs strutting around the stage never stop being hilarious.

Shrek the Musical. Credit Helen Maybanks

The first half of the show is great but then the second half really warms up with a good amount of adult humour littered throughout. Musicals are meant to take us out of our gloom and doom and this show is a lightning bolt of pure fun. Shrek the Musical is a fantastic way to show children the real magic of theatre at its most professional level. Take a break from impending cold war and the breakdown of Northampton council and look on the bright side for a few hours.

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