Review: Shrek, Mayflower Theatre

Review: Shrek, Mayflower Theatre

By Graham Hiley.

It was bright, beautiful and ogre-the-top! Shrek The Musical stank the place out – in the best possible way.

With enough fart, burp and body odour jokes to stink a battleship, this slick new production of the animated classic left the Mayflower audience… swamped!

This is anything but a bog-standard show, with stunning staging and clever choreography to go alongside some top-class vocals.

The time-honoured message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder has been given a facelift for this UK tour with new routines and gags.

Controversially, Lord Farquaad is no longer portrayed by an actor kneeling in their shoes, possibly to avoid causing offence… but a key part of the character is the way he over-compensates for his lack of stature so that did mean many of the height jokes fell, well, short of the mark.

But there was no danger of the audience feeling short-changed. There was a new tap dance section from a Rat Pack, an eye-opening routine from the Three Blind Mice and an extra song from the original Broadway production Gonna Build a Wall.

If that now has echoes of Donald Trump, there was also a powerful modern message about demonising anyone different with Farquaad set on ethnically cleansing the fairytale folk.

It was strong but subtle and in no way detracted from the fun of the show which boasted some stand-out performances.

Antony Lawrence was larger-than-life as Shrek with Brandon Lee Seers doing an admirable job in the unenviable role of following on from Eddie Murphy as Donkey. He managed to stay true to the original while still putting his own mark on the character.

James Gillan was more camp than sinister as Farquaad, playing it for laughs with his own new-found Freedom of Movement allowing him to prance foppishly around the stage.

Joanne Clifton was excellent as Fiona. The former World Professional Showdance Champion showed she is right at home on the stage with terrific vocals and great strength of character to ensure she was in no way overshadowed by Shrek and Donkey.

And then there was Cherece Richards as the Dragon, surely a rising star with a great voice and stage presence.

But perhaps the most memorable aspect of this top class production was the staging. Beautifully lit and designed, the backdrop had almost a 3D effect thanks to the fantastic video projections by Nina Dunn.

These not only allowed the creation of settings which would not have been possible with physical scenery but also fully drew in the audience in an almost immersive experience.

Right alongside that was Nick Winston’s top quality choreography which caught the eye every bit as much as Philip Witcomb’s superb set and costumes.

It was little wonder it received a rousing reception at the traditional finale of I’m a Believer which had the whole audience on their feet.

And to those who opted instead to endure the misery at St Mary’s… Should have gone to Shreksavers!

Shrek The Musical runs at the Mayflower until Sunday Feb 25.


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