This show is a great example of how subjective productions are, and therefore, how interesting reviewing is. I had a reviewer see Shrek at Norwich. I also bought tickets for my mum and her partner. My reviewer gave it 4 stars (4*shrek-review) and my mum loved it. My partner and I, however, had a slightly different experience and view of it, and that is what you will read here.
Let’s start with the overview of the story although I will be amazed if most people reading this don’t know what Shrek is about but here it is – Shrek, an ogre who enjoys his own space and lives in a swamp far from anyone else, finds his swamp overrun by fairy tale creatures who have been banished from Duloc by the evil Lord Farquaad. In order to get his swamp back, Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad to bring him a queen in exchange for the deed for his swamp. Shrek sets out to rescue Princess Fiona, reluctantly (at first) accepting help from his “noble steed”, Donkey. As they take Fiona to Farquaad so she can marry him, Shrek starts to fall in love with the princess and soon discovers a secret about her.
The film was fabulous, complete with a fun and easy to follow story and plenty of jokes for the kids, and some subtle, slightly more grown-up moments for the adults. Alongside that was a memorable soundtrack and strong character development. The musical, however, really lacked much of the charm, humour, warmth and depth which the film had and frequently strayed from the narrative of the film, introducing new characters and subplots with no obvious payoff other than another round of unmemorable songs. It also sadly added base humour – in the form of endless fart jokes – and was padded out with peculiar moments such Fiona tap dancing with man/rats in top and tails. Character development was lacking – in particular, Donkey and Shrek’s relationship which had a dearth of chemistry and the seemingly sudden and therefore inexplicable relationship between Dragon and Donkey.
I was really looking forward to this show. It could have been a tight musical rendition of the film and instead, for me, was a somewhat disappointing and badly paced slog.
Now, this isn’t to say there are not positives. I absolutely cannot fault the singing of any of the cast. Amelia Lily played a loveable Fiona and belted out her songs, while Samuel Holmes playing Lord Farquad was the person who managed to make me chuckle with his well-delivered lines and (seemingly) ad libbed side glances and Lucinda Shaw as the dragon was absolutely incredible – the voice of the show!
The dragon, the set and projected storybook at the start of the show were also impressive.
As I said at the start of this, I know a lot of people who enjoyed Shrek and I am sure many more people, particularly children, will continue to enjoy it to come but I really don’t think this is for everyone in the way I had hoped. If you don’t like panto, I don’t think this is for you as that is the closest comparison to another type of show that I can offer.
P.S – I was very sad not to see a Prince Charming make an appearance, obviously preferably in the form of Rupert Everett.
Shrek is at The Marlowe Canterbury until 22nd July and then on tour until January 2019
For tickets go to: https://marlowetheatre.com/shows/shrek/
For tour information go to: https://shrekthemusical.co.uk/buy-tickets/
Book and lyrics – David Lindsay-Abaire
Music – Jeanine Tesori
Tour Director – Nigel Harman