Shrek The Musical

Date 24th September 2021
Society NK Theatre Arts
Venue Romiley Forum
Type of Production Musical
Director Kerry Day & Hannah Thomas
Musical Director Ceri Graves
Choreographer Hannah Thomas

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Author: Kevin Proctor

For many societies across the nation, the pandemic was a secret blessing in disguise for so many groups who’d acquired the license to attempt to stage ‘Shrek The Musical’, many of whom had realised they’d bitten off way more than they could chew when it was perhaps a little too late! Breathing a sigh of relief when discovering that their show had to be cancelled with the majority shelving their Shrek venture for a title that’s far more ‘manageable’ post pandemic – not the case for ‘NK Theatre Arts’ who were evidently riddled with passion and determination to see this show through!

Anyone who has ever seen, been involved in or even just perused the script for Shrek will understand that each page of this title presents the creative team with a colossal challenge, many of which prove to be as arduous as the last, if not more so! One thing that cannot be denied with this ‘NK Theatre Arts’ rendition of Shrek is that these challenges were tackled head on by the shows creatives, adding even more strain was the devotion, dedication and (some may say) lunacy – for this show – with everything being built in-house! This mammoth undertaking alone was undoubtedly an immense project and I have utter admiration for such endurance and devotion to carry this mission through to completion. Due to the sheer volume of what the script asks, building your own set for Shrek is certainly not an undertaking for the faint hearted, enormous respect here. Though, the execution of the structures and presentation of the artwork did indeed give the impression of a community project accompanied with the belief that the team had perhaps spread themselves a little thin, what cannot be ignored is the degree of work and demands required for this task that would give the most experienced of teams sleepless nights! Although the end result was at times a tad rough around the edges, they managed to complete their project that many would have run a mile from so credit is absolutely bestowed to all involved in this department!  

This title challenges every department to the max with scenery, costumes, effects and make-up taking the major brunt’s! The costumes in this production were a mixed bag as some seemed to be expertly crafted with quality fabrics and impressive structures while others, mainly the chorus of enchanted fairy tale characters, appeared to be packet costumes that you could pick up from any town centre fancy dress shop which did give an air of inconsistency with the overall ‘look’ and presentation of the cast.

Kerry Day (Artistic Director), Hannah Thomas (Director/Choreographer) with the aid of their respective assistants and Ceri Graves (Musical Director) had certainly grabbed the project with a firm and focussed grip leading their enormous cast and tech departments with expertise and unquestionable passion for the project. Leading the cast as the title character was Mathew Rigby who was a robust core to the overall exhibition, he delivered the humour and sentiment without force and delivered his musical numbers with a relaxed and charming ease. The only hinderance was how the prosthetics were not allowing any facial expressions to furnish his performance. John Dean’s energy and Eddie Murphy impersonation lit up the stage, he was physically and vocally superb as the fast talking, irritating yet lovable Donkey, I was rather alarmed at the make-up colour choice which I know certain individuals in the audience took a great degree of offence to, I cannot understand how this decision could bypass any address from the chief decision makers at ‘NK…’ for me to continue on this topic would ascend into an enormous digression - I think, or at least I hope, I’ve made my point so I’ll refrain from expanding on this uncomfortable concern any further in this review.

Our leading lady was proffered by Kirsty Podlaski as the feisty Princess Fiona, Kirsty exposed the gorky qualities of the character and delivered a stellar vocal rendition, Kirsty inevitably appears to be ‘at home’ on stage and she lights up the auditorium with ease. Though I could understand some of the choices that were made, direction wise, some nuances to Fiona’s presentation appeared to be misjudged. Providing most of the shows humour, whether deliberate or not, was Paul Allison’s Lord Farquaad, the shortcoming here (sorry, couldn’t resist) was the unfortunate mishap of the false mini legs positioning which did add more humour than was intended but nonetheless it was a well-executed act from Paul, he is certainly a player who has no inhibitions when it comes to ‘going-for-it’ which is absolutely what you need from whoever you have playing this role.

Seeing crew on stage in full light dressed in their blacks with cans on is a bugbear of mine, it completely breaks any attempt at making us believe what we’re supposed to be believing. If they’re going to be seen, put them in a costume so they blend into the action and appear less obtrusive, however, given the degree of difficulty the crew were evidently having to manoeuvre and change the scenery I wasn’t as repelled by seeing them as I usually would be, I’m either going soft post pandemic or I’ve slightly forgiven it due to the struggle they were clearly experiencing, but I do always prefer attempts to disguise them!

It would be an endless crit if I were to give everyone a mention but I feel it would be a travesty if I were to sign off without giving a praiseworthy remark on Lauren Sanckson’s vocal performance as the Dragon which was simply magnificent, loved it – as impressive as the dragon puppet was, I felt it would have been a wiser choice for us to see Lauren during her number, though I’m glad, for her, that we got to see her at the end. The dragon puppeteers would have benefited from having direction too, I was watching the puppeteers more than I was watching the actual puppet as some of them were really performing and living their best dragon puppeteer lives, yet one had a stern and unanimated concentration face who I couldn’t stop watching… it’s like what we were taught at youth theatre – “if you’re the only one not smiling, everyone will look at you and wonder why!” and that’s what happened here.    

It’s often worthwhile to remind readers of reviews that every production comes with its gripes be it a professional or an amateur production. Unfortunately, it’s the duty of the reviewer to dissect and lay out at least some defects no matter how minor they may seem to be. Pinpointing the shortcomings as well as the virtues is the obligation of adjudication and burden of elimination. Faults can be found in anything if examined hard enough, regrettably (for an adjudicator) they’re to be dug out and weighed up. But overall, regardless of the occasional bleat pinpointed above such a commendable degree of hard work had been pumped into this production from all angles, I was incredibly impressed with the commitment that had been invested into getting this production on its feet, the packed audience had a great time and the majority of people on stage were enjoying it too, which is infectious and lifts any show from ‘good’ to ‘great’ so full compliments here! Congratulations team NK!