MusicalReviewSouth East

Shrek the Musical – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Book and lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

Director: Jenny Sawyer

Reviewer: Alice Fowler

Shrek is a story for our times: a reminder that heroes come in unlikely guises and no man (or ogre) is an island. The Guildford School of Acting takes this fairy tale adventure and makes it triumphantly its own.

This high-energy production of the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animation film (itself based on the book by William Steig) is mesmeric, zany and every bit as touching as the original.

It is hard to believe this is a student production. Costumes, lighting, choreography, set design and musical accompaniment are all of the highest quality. Aidan Cutler as Shrek and Jessica Bates as Princess Fiona – both bearing an uncanny resemblance to the film originals – stand out in a cast which is uniformly excellent.

Matthew Rankcom brings humour aplenty to Lord Farquaad, the would-be king who demands perfection but, shuffling on his knees, has an all too evident secret of his own to hide. Bradley Walwyn shines too as the wise-cracking Donkey with a heart of gold.

No detail goes unnoticed, from the wood markings on Pinocchio’s legs to the superbly whiskered Three Bears. As Shrek and Fiona’s love story unfolds – complete with belching and other bodily functions – an array of wonderful characters, from Pinocchio (Nick Gartland, particularly charming) to a huge, fleshy puppet-dragon, reinforces the message that, hey, it’s fine to be different.

The familiar numbers – Big Bright Beautiful World and Story Of My Life among them – are sung and danced to perfection. Freak Flag, in which the assembled cast of oddities urges us to ‘let your freak flag fly’ is powerful and moving.

GSA graduates feature regularly in West End productions, national tours and on television and film. From these superb performances, this year’s crop looks like no exception. This is a show about loving one’s neighbour and building bridges, not walls. In our uncertain times everyone – especially politicians – should take the chance to see it.

Runs until 30 March 2019 | Image: Contributed

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