Image courtesy of Helen Maybanks.
The Playhouse Theatre is currently emanating a green glow to announce the arrival of Shrek the Musical, which has left London’s West End to take up residence in Edinburgh this autumn. Adapted from the well-loved film, the stage version retains the storyline and much of the script, with the addition of songs and an abundance of glitter.
The tale is an unorthodox rewriting of everything you might expect from a Disney film. The social cleansing of the town of Dulock forces the fairy-tale creatures to take up residence in Shrek’s swamp. He embarks on a journey to try and regain ownership, along the way falling into an unlikely romance. True to the film, the humour is primarily aimed at children, but also contains a host of adult jokes and innuendoes that fly straight over their heads. It is brought to life on the stage with the use of some fantastic sets and costumes. Of particular note is the huge dragon puppet that swoops and struts across the stage, voiced by the soulful Candace Furbert.
The songs are, unsurprisingly, the main addition point of change between the musical and the film. They are classic musical theatre numbers: full of fun and packed with harmonies. Unfortunately they are not hugely memorable; unlike other big production musicals, the audience will not be rushing home to listen to the soundtrack again. Despite this, the talented cast and orchestra perform the music brilliantly, with the ensemble numbers particularly standing out.
Unfortunately, one of the problems with adapting a film as well-loved as Shrek is the inevitable comparison that the audience makes. In some cases, the delivery of much-quoted lines is slightly disappointing. This is unfortunately the case with Donkey. With the large hooves of Eddie Murphy to fill, Idriss Kargbo is undoubtedly trying to put his own spin on the character. However, a questionable American accent and and overly theatrical characterisation does not quite hit the mark.
Shrek and Fiona are played well, their strong voices beautifully harmonising and lovable characters bouncing off each other. However, it is Lord Farquard that steals the show. Performing on his knees with tiny legs attached, Gerad Carey brings the house down as the vertically challenged baddie. Particular highlights include several knee-based dance routines, impressively involving everything from high-kicks to pull-ups, and various sexual innuendos accompanied by a suggestive caress of his plastic legs.
Overall, the show is an explosion of colour and sound, worth catching if you want to be transported to a completely different place for an evening, and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.