Review: Shrek The Musical - Eye-popping design brings Duloc to life

Shrek and Princess Fiona
Shrek and Princess Fiona
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POOR Shrek, abandoned by his parents to carve out a life for himself at the tender age of the seven (as all ogres are), the reclusive green giant with the Scottish accent finds himself a remote swamp, away from civilisation and the threat of people with pitchforks, to call home... only to have his peace shattered when the evil Lord Farquaad banishes all Duloc's fairytale 'freaks' from his Kingdom.

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THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place

Shrek must now share his swamp with The Three Bears, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, the Wicked Witch, Three Little Pigs and a whole menagerie of fantastical characters. Or must he?

So opens the new touring production of Shrek at The Playhouse, where the ogre is on a quest to rid his swamp of his unwanted guests. In doing so he must also rescue the princess in the tower, Fiona. She has been there for 8423 days, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon... and keeping a secret.

Magical projections, lush lighting and glorious costumes demonstrate designer Tim Hatley's exquisite eye for detail and ensure Shrek is one of the most impressively dressed shows around. Hatley's spectacular use of colour, shapes and animation creates three dimensional worlds that fizzle with a life of their own and are just eye-popping.

Against this backdrop the actors do their stuff.

In the titular role, Steffan Harri makes for a gentle ogre, while Laura Main, by contrast, as the beautifully bossy Princess Fiona, is a joyfully rambunctious creation.

Shrek's faithful but prissy sidekick, Donkey, finds an energetic Marcus Ayton in good form, but it is Samuel Holmes as the diminutive Lord Farquaad who steals the show with a hilarious feat of physical comedy.

In the best panto style - although this is not a panto - there are topical references to Bake Off and Harry and Megan, along with a horse called Sturgeon - there's even a mention of building a wall. Although that element of the script predates Trump's declaration, it makes for a poignant moment none the less.

Despite the high production values, however, a lacklustre score drags, relying on The Monkees' Daydream Believer to lift it beyond the ordinary, while the stunning puppetry that brings the soul-singing, fire-breathing, high-flying dragon to life is quite magical.

A tale of friendship and acceptance, the moral message of Shrek is a simple: Be proud of who you are. This Christmas you can do that by embracing your inner-freak and joining the colourful characters of Duloc at The Playhouse.

Run ends 7 January