Rarely do you leave the theatre and spend most of the journey home chatting about the stunning costumes or the clever staging of the production; but with Shrek I did just that. In fact I was quite disappointed at the end of the show not to have been able to applaud what must be a massive backstage crew that make this show happen. This show has bags of style, so much so that it at times outweighs substance.
Let’s talk about that substance – the story that many visiting Derngate to see this show will be well versed in. Shrek is happily living a solitary existence in his swamp, until it becomes overrun with misfit characters that have been displaced out of Duloc by Lord Farquaad. Everyone’s favourite fairy tale characters are here – Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood, The Three Pigs to name but a few. Keen to get his swamp back, Shrek sets off to meet Lord Farquaad. Along the way he meets Donkey and the two go on a journey that teaches Shrek all about friendship, loyalty and ultimately, by the end of the show, love.
The show is enjoyable and very watchable, but there is always something lacking until Lord Farquaad who is brilliantly played by Samuel Holmes enters. Holmes steals the show with his performance as the vertically challenged and self-obsessed Lord. He brings a camp wickedness to the role and I defy anyone not to chuckle as his yellow pins stomp across the stage. Steffan Harri puts in a sound performance as Shrek, Marcus Ayton is loveable as Donkey and Laura Main grows on you through the performance in her role as Princess Fiona. I particularly loved Main’s tap dance routine at the top of act two with group of rats!
While the casting was definitely on point, I felt it was the musical numbers that disappointed most. At times during act one I struggled to make out some of the words, whether that be poor diction or an overpowering sound system I am not sure. The songs are not particularly memorable and at times I actually would have preferred they skipped through them all together, in act one they made things feel sluggish rather than moving on the story. Inevitably the song everyone would have left singing is the final song – ‘I’m a believer’ a song made famous over 50 years ago, a shame really that it wasn’t something original.
Realistically, this was never going to be a show that delivered hugely on substance. Ultimately there is something for everyone. The kids will love seeing their favourite characters come to life on stage and the key messages of the story won’t be lost on them. For the adults the show is well worth the entrance fee for the spectacle it delivers with its high production values. Credit must also be given to the Royal & Derngate for bringing such a lavish show to the town. For many years shows such as Shrek would have bypassed a stop in the county as they come with a hefty pressure to sell tickets. Reassuringly the audiences that will no doubt pack the venue over the next week will not feel short changed.
Shrek is performed at Royal & Derngate until Sunday 25th March. Tickets are available online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01604 624811.