Ex-EastEnder Nigel Harman direct Shrek at The Playhouse

Dean Chisnall (Shrek), Bront� Barb� (Princess Fiona), Idriss Kargbo (Donkey) and Gerard Carey (Lord Farquaad). Picture:  Ian Georgeson
Dean Chisnall (Shrek), Bront� Barb� (Princess Fiona), Idriss Kargbo (Donkey) and Gerard Carey (Lord Farquaad). Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ONCE Upon A Time... there was a little ogre named Shrek whose parents told him what all ogres are told on their seventh birthday, ‘Go away, and never come back.’

Young Shrek set off and eventually found a patch of swampland tom make his home.

Many years later Shrek has learned to love the solitude of his wonderfully stinky swamp, which you can currently find on the stage of The Playhouse.

Unfortunately, his quiet life is shattered when a pack of distraught fairy-tale characters are dumped on his land, banished from the Kingdom of Duloc by the evil Lord Farquaad... and so Shrek’s adventure begins.

Based on the Oscar-winning animated movie, Shrek the Musical is currently enjoying a three-week season at the Greenside Place theatre, where Dean Chisnall nightly dons the green face paint to bring the bumbling ogre to life.

Like the film before, the musical has become a massive hit, and no one could be more pleased than ex-EastEnder Nigel Harman, who makes his directorial debut on the show, having starred in the original West End production as Lord Farquaad.

“This is my directing debut but I think this moment was always coming,” he says.

“Those people who have worked with me and know me well have always seen that it was in my DNA and what better way to do it than jumping in at the deep end with a huge production like this.

“This show is very special to me with its dizzying blend of great characters, a hilarious script and sublime music.

“This production is visually stunning and the story has the magic ingredient of moving at great pace while still being surprisingly intimate.

“In short, there was no way I was going to say no to the challenge of realising the production and taking it on the road.”

“I love this show and it makes me laugh every time I see it.”

Harman had big boots to fill - not those of the ogre himself, but just how do you follow such a successful movie?

“Taking the first Shrek as its inspiration - one of the best launch pads you could ever have - Shrek The Musical uses the best elements of the film,” he explains.

“So, the animated look, the feel, and those incredibly witty scenes with Donkey, are transposed on to the stage.”

“Then we add big, bold, song and dance layers on top.

“I found the movie really warm and enjoyed the subversion of traditional fairy-tale characters at which DreamWorks, and especially the Shrek franchise, were pioneers.”

Harman has fond memories of his time in the show too. In fact, you get the impression it is one of his proudest achievements.

“When Shrek opened at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, I was playing Lord Farquaad, winning the Olivier Award was the icing on the cake.

“Performing the show eight times a week in front of a live audience, I got to witness first-hand as the audience got sucked in to the humour and the spectacle.

“From the moment it starts, they are there on the journey with you and I think that’s a really powerful and quite unique experience for both the cast and the audience.”

Part of that charm and attraction is the fact that Shrek is a good old-fashioned family show.

“If you’re a parent, be assured that the kids will come along and love it.

“They will recognise the story and the characters and they won’t believe what they see on the stage, but just like the film, adults can also rely on the humour, a little risqué in places, delivered with a wink of the eye,” he says, adding, “but it’s a family show at its heart, and suitable for everyone, children from 8 to 80, so bring your kids or a date.”

Shrek the Musical, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, until 8 November, various times, £19.50-£49.50, 0844-871 3014