I haven’t a maternal bone in my body, but, on Tuesday evening when a seven-year-old Shrek was cruelly abandoned by his parents, I actually felt stirrings of sorriness for the poor little mite.
This tear-jerking scene heralded the start of Hessle Theatre Company’s production of Shrek the Musical at the Hull New Theatre and, heartstrings firmly tugged, I settled down to see how the green baby-ogre fared.
In 2020, Covid wreaked havoc with the original release date of this amateur show so, out of mothballs, would it still have the same allure?
Well, don’t let the word “amateur” put you off – this crew are as good as any professionals I have seen. The energetic cast, dressed in the most wonderful costumes, sang beautifully, danced and acted their hearts out, keeping a well-attended theatre thoroughly entertained. The artistic stage setting and atmospheric lighting provided the ideal backdrop. Music from a 13-piece orchestra was the icing on the Shrek cake.
This is make-believe land, so in the blink of an ogre’s eye, Shrek had grown into an adult, while Princess Fiona, banished to a tower to await a handsome prince’s kiss, grew desperate for a fairy-tale ending to her isolation.
Shrek (an award-winning performance by Russell Fallon), finds his swampy home besieged by fairytale characters, including Pinocchio, the Three Bears, the Big Bad Wolf and Little Riding Hood, the Tooth Fairy, Peter Pan and Little Bo Beep, to name just a few.
They had all been evicted from their homes by the wannabe king, Lord Farquaad (an equally award-winning and hysterically funny performance by Joe Porte), so it was up to Shrek to set off through the forest to find out what the vertically challenged Lord was up to, in the hope the fairytale creatures would leave his swamp and go back to where they belonged.
It’s in the forest that actor Harry Owen makes an ass of himself to great effect. He is the Donkey who befriends Shrek and was a star turn in his own right.
Reaching their destination, Shrek prepares to confront the diminutive lord, leaving Donkey behind in the Dragon’s lair. Luckily, Donkey charms the fire-eating monster, who falls in love with him.
It’s here I must mention the magnificent prop of a 21ft dragon carried aloft by talented puppeteers and enlivened by the amazing singing voice of Georgina Garton.
The Lord tasks Shrek with bringing him the aforementioned Princess (I hate to be repetitive, but this was another award-winning performer, in Sarah Brodie), with the promise of giving him back the deeds to the swamp.
This is no Beauty and the Beast love story, more like Beast and the Beast, as it’s no secret in this well-known story, that Princess Fiona has more in common with Shrek than even he realises.
It’s not the fairytale ending the Princess had envisaged, but I am in no doubt that her, Shrek and the Donkey lived happily ever after.
I couldn’t find fault with anything in this amazing production. It was a theatrical revelation.
Presented by Hessle Theatre Company by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe), and members of the National Operatic and Drama Association
Running until Saturday, March 26th, 2022; 7.30pm nightly to Friday, 25th and 2pm & 7pm on Saturday, 26th. Tickets from £13.50. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 22nd March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★