REVIEW: Shrek (Empire Theatre, Sunderland)

4pdu6BMoPCFZgQA63KFgXPS--El1Aok4E2jmddLJnLA“What makes us different makes us stronger”

Shrek arrives in Sunderland and after nearly two years on tour and you have to worry about the state of Gerard Carey’s knees.

Surrounded by children and adults alike, this really is a show for everyone, with the men in the audience laughing much more than the children. But Shrek has everything – a love story, triumph over adversity, music, dance and comedy. The perfect feel good family show. But who can fail to enjoy a show where the safety announcements warn you that an ogre will fart on your head if you are caught filming or taking photo’s. And Sunderland Empire staff are clearly wary of the ogre and the stench as they are very vigilant and quick to warn any offenders.

Dean Chisnall was taking a break so Jake Small was Shrek, and a fabulous Shrek he was too. Completely unrecognisable under the layers of green prosthetics. He charmingly captures the poignancy and gallows humour of Shrek. Setting out on his quest to evict the Fairytale characters invading his swamp, he ends up falling for Fiona and is genuinely touching as he falls in love.

Idris Kargbo is the equally lovable Donkey, full of energy and talent his performance of Make a Move was hilarious and fantastically choreographed.

Bronté Barbé has moved up the ranks and is now Princess Fiona on tour. Holding her own in some highly comical scenes, including their very funny farting and burping competition. Feisty and loveable and a mess of contradictions in a dress.

And back to Gerard Carey, who spends the entire performance on his knees as short-statured Lord Farquaad, who had the audience in hysterics without even needing to open his mouth!

Set design, from Tim Hatley, is flawless and scenery moves from palace to woods and meadows seamlessly. But the greatest feat must have been to bring to life the huge dragon. This wonderful puppet, handled by several puppeteers, fills the stage and threatens all with the same tail and green eyes it uses to romance Donkey. With a stand out performance for the outstanding vocals of Candace Furbert, voicing the part.

With a cheeky sense of humour, the entire ensemble is excellent, vocals and choreography are as classy and fun as expected, with a very post-modern spin on the world of fairytales. This colourful, invigorating stage adaptation which is packed with new songs from lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire and music arranged by Jeanine Tesori is outstanding with special merit to the costumes.

Overall, it’s a fantastic family show which will have kids of all ages entertained, and as an added bonus, keep alert for numerous amusing musical parodies peppered throughout.

Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes
Photo: Helen Maybanks

Shrek is playing at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland until Sunday 22 November 2015 and then will play Liverpool and Wimbledon. Click here for more information and to book tickets