Review – Shrek The Musical, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

You know a visit to the theatre’s not a wholehearted success when your girlfriend announces at the interval that “This is one evening of my life I’m never getting back.”

However, by the standards of our trip to Shrek The Musical this was high praise. One couple near us had focused entirely on necking for the first half before failing to return after the interval. The generously proportioned gentleman next to me had watched only fifteen minutes before announcing loudly to his daughter (she must have been his daughter, right?) “This is too boring” in a thick Eastern European accent, before spending five minutes looking for his shoes while standing up and finally walking out.

Shrek isn’t quite all bad:

  • For one thing it’s based on really a rather funny film and there are a couple of good gags – particularly the gingerbread man torture scene – borrowed wholesale, which garner a few good laughs.
  • Second, you can’t fault Nigel Harman’s portrayal of Lord Farquaad. Spending almost the entire evening on his knees (the Whingers have already made the obligatory joke here) he gets the best laughs of the evening through simply failing to stand up (surely this must be the definition of damning with feint praise?). A pair of fake yellow legs shouldn’t really be that captivating, but actually they’re rather fascinating and he definitely steals the show…
  • … except for the Dragon (Landi Oshinowo) of course. Both of her appearances are superbly orchestrated and are the unequivocal highlights of the show. The first is something like War Horse on steroids, the second better than anything Spiderman has to offer.

The rest of it is actually rather embarrassing.

Amanda Holden was presumably shooting for the “she’s not nearly as bad as everybody expected” kind of critical plaudit, and she misses by an absolute mile. She’s pretty damn poor in respect of acting, charisma and (oh my god) singing. Perhaps it was just an off night, but she spectacularly missed a couple of notes and came across as lacking in any real emotion or enthusiasm. In fact, the most cringe-worthy moment of the evening (there were a few) was when she was failed to outsing both “Teen Fiona” (Amy Beadel) and “Young Fiona” (not sure who) before the two younger versions sadly disappeared never to be seen again.

Nigel Lindsay in the title role is fine. I mean, credit to him for the makeup and the effort that the fatsuit must take, but it’s not a starring role.

I was always told if you don’t have anything nice to say, better to say nothing at all: so Richard Blackwood as Donkey I’m not even going to discuss. Probably the best I can say is that this is a wasted opportunity.

Technically this is a pretty impressive show. We get rope bridges rising out of the stage, dancing bunnies, exploding birds, an incredibly slick transition from caucasian Amanda to green Amanda, the previously mentioned dragon and – a highlight for me – tap-dancing rats.

But the real problem with this show isn’t the acting or the technical prowess on stage, but the script which feels like a substandard facsimile of what is admittedly a pretty good film. I wasn’t expecting a wholesale rewrite of the plot but I was expecting an intelligent reworking. The addition of “Henman hill” and the odd dirty joke didn’t do it for me and left this feeling more like a second rate panto than a first rate musical.

The Sans Taste verdict: rent the DVD.