Review: Shrek – The Musical @ Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
[All images courtesy of Bradford Theatres]
The title character of this fantastic family fun show takes his (yes, not its) name from the German-Yiddish word ‘shreck’, meaning fear or terror. So the traditional fairy tale narrative is turned upside down when the ugly ogre becomes the hero who is sent on a knightly quest. Of course, the 2001 animated film Shrek became one of the highest grossing film series of all time. The continuation of its success onto the Broadway and West End stage, and now a two-year UK nationwide tour, reveals our enduring curiosity. Perhaps due mainly to its very subversion of such theorists as Propp and Todorov’s blueprints for a narrative quest.
So Dean Chisnall’s Shrek is utterly endearing and we especially identify with his difficult childhood (kicked out of home at aged seven) and present predicament. The monster side of him wants to settle down all alone in a putrid swamp and so he is angered when a host of fairy tale characters have been sent to suffer swamp life by the real baddie, pintsize midget Farquaad. Gerard Carey as the vertically-challenged wannabe monarch has us in stitches with some great slapstick and hilarious pomposity.
But when Shrek confronts the little Lord to request for the right to live alone he is sent off to rescue a distant Princess in the lair of a dangerous dragon. In the Princess rescue scene the animatronic dragon displays some enormous, inventive and evocative puppetry design by Tim Hatley. Bronté Barbé’s Fiona is quite ridiculously outré but still magically moving in places, especially when her own inner demons are exposed.
Shrek and Fiona get down and dirty in some seriously silly toilet humour and compare their painful life experiences that have brought them to this point. But Fiona confides in the all-singing all-dancing donkey, Idriss Kargbo as Shrek’s steed, not to the ogre himself, who now feels rejected.
When they get back to Farquaard, the evil ruler takes control of the proceedings, and Fiona rushes into a marriage she thinks may bring her true love and so end the hideous curse she is beset with. But there is a clever twist here that turns the stuff of fairy tales and mythology upside-down.
No spoilers here but suffice it to say that there are celebrations aplenty with the gorgeous outbreak of the Shrek song classic I’m a Believer, with the entire cast whooping it up, we even feel a little sorry for the forlorn Farquaad!
The orchestral performance is first-class, really adding dynamism and drama to the action on-stage, which is simply spectacular in its rich colours and dizzying lighting effects by Hugh Vanstone. The ensemble really excel in their enchanting roles with the entire stage constantly a sight of wonder and magic with some sensational and clever choreography by Josh Prince.
The show manages to traverse the generation gap with toddlers squealing along with excited teens and of course it touches the heart strings of the young at heart – you can really explore your inner child!