Prima close their 2018 season by bringing the big, green, belching production Shrek to the Redcliffe Cultural Centre stage. The show gleefully fractures fairy tales left, right, and centre, and happily preaches a message of acceptance for all. Based on the hit movie of the same name, the musical bursts onto the stage in an all singing, all dancing, all heartfelt extravaganza.
Direction by Miranda Selwood combined with a very clever set design by Jo Diskett kept the production moving forward, with the feeling of travelling with the characters on their journey. The addition of “stage hands” dressed in tabards gave the feeling that we were seeing behind the scenes, putting us more on side with the characters. Some blocking left cast members standing behind too tall set pieces briefly, but this cleared as the show moved through into the second act.
Tight musical direction by Hayley Marsh kept the band tight, and the full ensemble sound on pitch. Marsh kept the production from dragging in patches, and her work with the soloists was lovely. Fitting in like a glove was choreography by Taylor Davidson. Simple and cleanly put together for the most part, leant the show a unified feeling, and allowed the various skill levels all comfortably shine through. Davidson then let fly with the tap routine, pushing the ensemble and really letting Princess Fiona go to town. The result was spectacular.
Nathaniel Currie dominated the stage as the big green hero Shrek. Showing a more caring and thoughtful Shrek than is often seen in the stage show, Currie gave the “monster” a wonderful heart and constantly showed a more considerate, thoughtful Shrek behind the grumpy exterior. While not as vocally strong as some incarnations of the character, Currie leant into the lyrics and language, letting them do the work of imparting the story, and gave us some thoroughly wonderful characterisation that made the big green ogre a favourite of the audience.
Lucy Bardsley is beyond impressive as the fiercely independent Princess Fiona. Her character is spot on, in equal measures fiery and standalone, but also showcasing the Princesses more sensitive side wonderfully. Bardsley also brought her formidable voice to bear on the score, powering through the songs with ease. Of particular note was her work with the two “younger” Fiona’s in ‘I Know It’s Today’, displaying some gorgeous harmony work and wonderful characterisation. Her work with Currie was delightful, revelling in the disgustingness of being an ogre together as Fiona slowly found a love for her true self.
As the noble steed Donkey, Zach Price steals the show. Exhibiting seemingly limitless enthusiasm and boundless energy, Price disappears into the role and jokes, prances, and sings his way through the demanding role like he could do it all day, every day. While shining in all of his featured work, the real standout of his performance is the moments he is not front and centre. Price finds a myriad of ways to entertain himself onstage, never once stealing the limelight from his costars, rather finding ways to enhance each scene.
As diminutive Lord with his eyes on the crown Farquaad, Tristan Vanyai is a delight. Strutting around the stage on knee pads he makes for the perfect napoleonic fairy tale dictator in the making. Vanyai showcases some impressive vocal work during his “grandiose” introduction to Duloc. He banters well with his henchman and clearly revels in the fun of the character and the show. Full kudos has to be given to Vanyai for bounding around the stage on his knees the way he does, he made it look effortless, and the gags where the cast picked him up to move him where hilarious!
The show, much like the movie, features a small lead cast, but a host of secondary characters who go a long way towards making the production as enjoyable as it is. As the “real” wooden boy Pinocchio, Zachary Crisan is wonderful, nailing the voice and the lanky, disjointed movements of the character, as well as the biting tongue in cheek humour that happily goes over many of the younger heads in the audience. As the Dragon Ebony Hamacek wows vocally, with a powerful voice that cuts through the demanding score. Additionally Hamacek shows some wonderful control in her puppeteering of the Dragon’s head. Chelsea Sales as Gingy gives wonderful humour to the show, with great comedic timing and a first class voice to round out the supporting cast.
Though they be but tiny in number, the ensemble for this production is fierce, and tirelessly working. You would be excused for thinking that they were a company twice as large as they are for the sound that they produce, and the impact they have on the stage. Ranging in age and experience, they commitment and energy radiates into the audience and is wonderfully infectious. Honourable mention must go to Elliot Gough for his spritely, and ever youthful Peter Pan, and to Izzie Radley’s Sugar Plum Fairy for the energy she brought to every scene she was in.
Shrek is a tale of letting your ‘Freak Flag Fly’, and showing the world the person you really are underneath. It is about acceptance, and love, and finding your place in a big, and often scary world. Considering we find ourselves living in, it is a story we need to hear more of, and through this heartfelt rendering of the story, people of any age will leave the theatre smiling, with a song in their heart.