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Shrek - Derngate Theatre, Northampton

I’m a believer in Shrek.  If you want to embrace fairy tales, happy ever afters and let your freak flag fly, this is the show for you and at Royal and Derngate Theatre this week.


I have always loved this show which has a special place in my heart, but this latest production is on another level.  Its spectacular scenery feels immersive and draws you into the magic.  The show is set around the story of the first Shrek film and starts with a ‘once upon a time’ from a book but we go into the book with animated backgrounds and even a spot a puss in boots on our travels to Duloc.


Antony Lawrence who leads the cast as our beloved swamp-dwelling ogre, Shrek.  He is funny and for an ogre, rather adorable.  Antony nails the Scottish accent and his range of emotions – after all ogres have layers.  Princess Fiona is a sassy princess played by Joanne Clifton and Joannie is wonderful at demonstrating how Fiona can’t help but let her true character come through rather than be a traditional princess.  She has a curse and is by day one way and by night another.  Her only hope is true loves kiss.  Not only is Joanne a triple talent (sing, dance and act), I admit I still want to see Joanne dance (after all she is a strictly winner).  I loved some of the dance scenes and especially the tap-dance number with the rats.  She’s still got it!   Absolutely outstanding performance by Joanne.


Donkey is known for being a funny character and gets some great one-liners such as ‘I’m a GPS with fur’ when telling Shrek about directions to Duloc.  Donkey is played by Brandon Lee Sears and was totally fabulous.  Brandon Lee’s voice is so soulful and I loved his poses (which made my legs ache just watching him), at one point he even does the splits.  A very nimble donkey who works so well with Anthony to build the friendship between Donkey and Shrek.  Its almost a better love story than Shrek and Fiona.  Every fairy-tale needs a baddie and Lord Farquaad fits the bill in Shrek.  Played by James Gillan, he is a rather camp, hair swishing wannabe king and has the whole of Duloc doing musical numbers I could be tempted to live there if he hadn’t cleared Duloc of all the fairytale characters.  But then he is a baddie, and I need to remember how he treated the gingerbread man!


The cast is large and each one is absolutely exceptional in their role.  We have a cool funky dragon with a voice to die for.  Pinocchio has the perfect voice to match his personality, Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up despite a comment that he may be in his late 30’s.  I know – I was shocked too!  Lets not forget The Three Bears, The Big Bad Wolf who actually likes to wear a dress and The Three Little (or not so little) Pigs. It’s all your childhood fairy-tales in one.  Their interactions are also wonderful.  The Three Bears are told to stand near Pinocchio.  Too close.  Too far. Just right.  It’s these touches that give the show its magic.


The songs are original and written especially for the show.  An audience pleaser is I Think I Got You Beat where Princess Fiona and Shrek are having a competition about who had the worst childhood.  But my personal favourite is Let Your Freak Flag Fly, an empowering number which is saying be proud of who you are and don’t let others pull you down.


This show has feel good all over it and it’s one of those rare opportunities to get the whole family together to share something special.  Something they will remember and talk about in the years to come.  It was one of the first shows I ever took my son to, and he was there with me last night.  Shrek is ‘our thing’.  Create memories with your own loved ones.


Shrek is currently playing at Derngate Theatre until 27 April 2024 so there is still plenty of time to stand up and say ‘I’m a believer’.


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