An Evening of Fairytale Magic – A Shrek Review - Hurstpierpoint College

An Evening of Fairytale Magic – A Shrek Review

As a child I adored Shrek. I remember laughing raucously with my brother at Mike Myers’ depiction of the obstinate ogre and the general irreverence shown to the fairy-tale genre throughout (and yes, it was that and not the fart jokes). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was near giddy when Saturday night came round, and I took my seat in the New Bury Theatre.

The first thing that struck me was the sheer wonder of the set design. From the giant ogre-eared ‘S’ dangling above the stage to Fiona’s tower which for all I knew was genuinely there sitting magisterially above a sea of clouds. The drama department deserve immense credit for putting such an elaborate production together which would not look out of place in the West End itself. Likewise, the outstanding performance of the band, led by Director of Music Neil Matthews, never missed a beat throughout the whole show.

However, if the set design and the band were impressive then the individual student performances were simply breath-taking. Sam Di Castiglione’s Shrek was a sight to behold, and his more sympathetic depiction of the character elevated the pathos of the later scenes to new heights (there were heartfelt sighs all around me during Shrek’s apparent rejection by Fiona). Similarly, Daisy Bayer’s performance as Fiona was one for the Hurst records. Confident yet sensitive in a performance beyond her age, her presence in any scene was captivating. Henry Gadsden and Willem Paskins also deserve praise for their hilarious performances as Donkey and Lord Farquaad respectively. There was a real sense of anticipatory glee amongst the audience whenever one of them would step foot on the stage.

Alongside these outstanding lead performances, the whole cast deserve huge amounts of praise. The true ‘magic’ of this performance came from the cast cohesion and how this performance felt truly ‘owned’ by the students. This sentiment was echoed in many of the conversations I had with audience members after the show – the sense that this was a passion project for the students was shared amongst everyone I spoke to. From the Pythonesque Knights to the Duloc Performers and the whole crowd of fairy-tale creatures, the sheer spectacle of the show thoroughly prevented any audience fatigue in such a long show. The whole cast deserve huge praise for the sheer energy they exuded and the obvious fun they were having being part of this theatrical wonder.

Shrek is often described as a ‘post-fairy-tale’ story, a tale which satirises and mocks the conventions of this ancient genre. In Shrek’s world, nothing is to be taken at face value and anything is open to ridicule. Hurst’s performance of Shrek the Musical, empowered by a truly electric cast, embodied that joyful irreverence in its entirety. When sincerity is abandoned, innocence and wonder are allowed to take over – while sat in that theatre, I felt like I was that 12-year-old boy again.

Written by Daniel Hunter, Teacher of English