After an extremely successful first UK and Ireland tour, Shrek the Musical is back again, touring until 6th January 2019. How does it feel to be a part of it?
I’m absolutely delighted to be a part of this tour as I was so keen to do the last tour and I think the show is great.
For those who may not be familiar with the story, can you describe what the show is about?
The show is a loving homage to the Dreamworks animated film of the same name and tells the tale of the curmudgeonly ogre and his journey into love and being loved. It has so much heart and joy and really captures the magic of a fairytale world and its inhabitants.
The animated film of Shrek is well-loved by many, but what do you think the musical offers that the film doesn’t?
The film is superb and has some wonderful performances but you can’t beat live theatre! There is something so magical about Shrek on stage and watching it performed before you by a great cast helps the story to become a much more shared experience. It’s wonderful and the magic is tangible in the auditorium for both us and the audience.
You’re playing Lord Farquaad, described as the “pint-sized villain.” Do you enjoy playing the baddie?
I love playing Lord Farquaad and all the baddies in particular as they have so many layers of emotion and nuance to mime from as a performer. What makes them bad? What makes them happy? Why are they nasty and what turned them? It’s great fun to explore their egos and foibles and the audiences love to hate them!
You’ve been on several UK and international tours throughout your career. What is your most and least favourite thing about touring?
I thoroughly enjoy touring but it does have its ups and downs. I love the change of venues and exploring the UK’s beautiful cities and towns but I don’t enjoy the wondering what new ‘digs’ will be like or if the town shuts at five and you can’t get a sandwich or a coffee?!
Shrek the Musical embraces the fairytale genre, featuring many iconic characters that audience will know and love. Do you have a favourite fairytale character or story?
I like Cinderella because I like the balls but I’ve been reading the Grimms Fairytales again along with some other obscure and forgotten stories and the characters in them are absolutely glorious. I love the pantomime Aladdin and I adore Mother Goose but no one does it that much anymore!
The show is being directed by Nigel Harman, who originated the part of Lord Farquaad in the West End. What is it like playing the same part with him now as director?
Having Nigel as a director has been an absolute joy. He is a lovely chap and because he’s played the role he was able to give me all the best tips about how to get a laugh here and there and keep my knees healthy! Never once did he say ‘oh I did this’ or ‘you should do that’, he was excellent and together we both created something new and different for this version of the tour. He would make an excellent director of Shakespeare. I had a great time with him.
Lord Farquaad gets to perform some show-stopping musical numbers. What is your favourite moment in the show?
The show, as you rightly say, is full of great songs and moments. I adore the finale as I get to be on my feet for it and wear the most marvellous yellow tights! Malvolio eat your heart out! But, selfishly, I like my first entrance as the audience are trying to work out how the ‘little legs’ work and how the magic is created. I would never tell them but this cast are phenomenal and when they sing the rousing ‘Freak Flag’ it does make me gasp in awe at their sheer brilliance.
Since Lord Farquaad is just a few feet tall, some theatrical magic takes place to portray this to the audience. Have you found rehearsing and performing this role each night physically demanding?
It is a physically demanding role especially in trying to keep the illusion of the diminutive height. I swim and take many supplements for the joints but if Bette can do Dolly in her seventies then I should shut up and keep going!
As you will be travelling across the UK and Ireland for this tour, what is something you absolutely cannot live without and make sure to have with you at each venue?
I always like to have my kindle, digital radio, joke books and a pad and pen. Bliss.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
Shrek the Musical is now on tour until January 2019. www.shrekthemusical.co.uk
Interview by Olivia Dowden