Shrek ogres well for a great night out

Popular: Shrek runs at Manchester Theatre from December 10 to January 11
Popular: Shrek runs at Manchester Theatre from December 10 to January 11
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By his own admission, GEOFFREY SHRYHANE was a Shrek stranger. But after seeing the live show, he’s fallen under its spell

Not having seen any of the Shrek films, it was impossible to imagine why millions the world over have fallen in love with the ogre character, not a world away from Quasimodo.

Shrek meant nothing.

Shrek the Musical is based on the iconic 2001 film. After a trial run in Seattle, the Broadway production opened seven years later, running for a year. A United States tour followed and it was then revamped for the British theatre.

The story begins when a green ogre named Shrek tells the audience of his childhood and how on his seventh birthday his parents turned him out of the family home, telling him to make his own way in the world.

They warn him that, because of his ugly looks, everyone will hate him and life will be a misery. A few years later, an embittered, grown-up Shrek is living in a swamp but his solitude is disrupted when a band of fairy tale creatures arrive on the scene.

The imposters include Pinocchio, the Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, a Wicked Witch, the Big Bad Wolf and Peter Pan and others. They tell how they have been banished from the kingdom of Duloc by order of the diminutive Lord Farquaad.

The diddy king tells them they’re all freaks and threatens them with death if they return.

Shrek is an amazing mix of so many different kinds of light, entertaining theatre, and when the “out of context” characters seen in other shows waltz on to the stage, you begin to wonder just who else will appear. Very entertaining.

This is a very odd love story – but I won’t give any more away, save to say that the part of the ogre Shrek is utterly mesmerising. And yes, we do feel very sorry for him, even if at times he’s a nasty piece of work. Newburgh, Lancashire-born actor Dean Chisnall plays the incredible Shrek and it takes three long hours to get him into costume and make up.

He appeared in the show in the West End, and has a list of excellent shows to his professional name, including The Woman in White, Love Never Dies, Never Forget, and Cinderella at High Wickham.

Dean has said: “I’m thoroughly enjoying playing Shrek and am looking forward to coming to play nearer home in Manchester over Christmas.”

Gerard Carey, playing the odd Lord Farquaad, said: “Shrek is a wonderful, wonderful story. I’d known the producer Nigel Harman for years, but we’d never worked together.

“So when I got the message to go in for an audition I was thrilled. I’m thoroughly enjoying playing this amazing creature.”

Idriss Kargbo – who played in the Lion King at London’s Lyceum Theatre – takes the part of Donkey saying: “Nigel has a great way of making you feel comfortable. He really puts everyone at their ease. Shrek is so different from other shows. In fact, I’d say it’s unique. It’s for all ages and, of course, there’s quite a lot of breaking of wind which has everybody in utter fits of laughter.”

Playing Princess Fiona is lovely Fay Brookes, busy settling into a new apartment near the River Thames in Kew.

“So I’m very busy” she said. “But I should add straight away loving every minute.

“I’m from just outside Manchester and remember seeing the blockbuster film. Of course, the stage show has to be different. I am in awe of the actress who played in the film. It’s a lot to live up to.

“I started late in the acting business. I took me a long time to discover who I was. Wondered what I wanted to be. How will I get into the theatre which is so tough and the competition so high.

“My parents couldn’t afford to send me to drama school – but I went to drama school anyway and was soon picked up for the West End production of Grease.

“I sometimes feel I’ll wake up and it will all be a dream. Here in Shrek we have a marvellous company.

“Of course I did 18 months in Legally Blonde – always on the road. Meeting people and talking to little girls who loved the show. Compared with some shows, this is a doddle. My northern roots have stood me in good stead.
“There’s no show business in the family. My dad is a mechanic, my sister’s a teacher. My brother works at a restaurant. If I do get a little bit above myself, my family tell me ‘shut up. Who do you think you are?”

“I was only 17 when a career in show business came into my head. I remember auditioning for the Little Mermaid musical at Pendleton College. A teacher, Neil Bennett, took me under his wing. He introduced me to the right people. I got into drama school with a scholarship so I’m glad my parents didn’t have to fork out money they didn’t have.

“I was lucky to find a marvellous agent and haven’t stopped working for a whole decade.”

Faye regards herself as oh so lucky to be spotted for the BBC drama Our Zoo which has just aired.

“I loved the acting and all the complicated rigmarole of making a TV drama. It was totally new and I found it stimulating and fascinating.