Portsmouth Players bring Shrek The Musical to The Kings Theatre, Southsea

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‘Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek.’

And so begins the tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue.

The Portsmouth Players are back at the Kings Theatre with their production of Shrek the Musical – based on the Oscar-winning classic family film.

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Joining Jack Edwards in the title role and Lauren Kempton as Princess Fiona is Tom Wood as Donkey.

From left: Tom Wood as Donkey, Jack Edwards as Shrek, Lauren Kempton as Princess Fiona. Picture by Cinnabar StudiosFrom left: Tom Wood as Donkey, Jack Edwards as Shrek, Lauren Kempton as Princess Fiona. Picture by Cinnabar Studios
From left: Tom Wood as Donkey, Jack Edwards as Shrek, Lauren Kempton as Princess Fiona. Picture by Cinnabar Studios

Tom says: ‘I last saw the film years ago, it's one of those films everybody knows isn't it? But it's a good eight-10 years since I last saw it, and I've deliberately stayed away from it because I didn't want to be tainted by anything – I wanted to put my own stamp on it.

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‘I thought it was important to not tune in and see it – I'll probably watch it again after the show!’

The film version is voiced by the fast-talking Eddie Murphy.

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‘He's synonymous with the role, isn’t he? I want people to walk away and think there's a nod to Donkey from the film, so I'm still keeping him excitable, lively, and annoying and likeable at the same time. It needs to be energetic and fast-paced, but also to show he's got a bit of heart behind him too.’

Tom also saw the musical version when it was in the West End with Nigel Lindsay as Shrek, Richard Blackwood as Donkey, and Amanda Holden as Fiona.

‘I remember it being such a fun family show. Everyone knows the fairy tale genre, and the beauty of Shrek is that all of those features of fairy tales are subverted so well and it makes for cracking viewing and it transfers onto the stage really well.’

Tom has been part of the Players for more than a decade, and while he appeared in shows directed by Jack, has never played opposite him – or Lauren.

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‘I've seen them both in shows, obviously. It's been lovely, we get on really well and it's actually quite nice to work opposite people you've never worked with before, but have seen in other shows.’

And of course, chemistry between the leads is crucial to their on-stage relationships.

‘Because I've known Jack for so long it was nice going into the part. We already had that rapport, and I think all three of us have got a similar sense of humour and I think that translates a little bit when we do the show. For us three, there is a lot of dialogue, we're all very central to the plot of the how, so we've done a lot of rehearsals with just the three of us and that's helped build that rapport and playing off each other.

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‘For a Donkey that talks so quickly, you don't have a chance to think much, really! Whatever comes out of my mouth comes out and it’s just working with it...’

There’s also the possibility of his co-star going off-script: ’I also know how Jack can throw in a curve-ball, with him doing pantomimes,’ Jack is a regular as the dame in the Pompey Panto, ‘and he's so natural on stage. The more comfortable we get during the week he might ad-lib or throw stuff in. I'm fully prepared for that as well!’

Shrek The Musical is at The Kings Theatre, Southsea from October 11-15. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk.

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