Once upon a time, in a land far, far away – also known as Southampton – there was a show called Shrek that was performed at the Mayflower Theatre.
No, this isn’t a fairytale – the loveable ogre will be joined by Donkey, Pinocchio and the rest of the crew when the musical starts its residency on Wednesday.
At the helm of the UK tour is Nigel Harman, who swaps his Olivier Award-winning performance as Lord Farquaad for a backstage role as director.
‘I’m very passionate about the show,’ he says.
‘I love its sensibility. When I first got involved with it I was bowled over by the music and how funny it was.’
He adds: ‘I think directing is something that has been in me for a very long time. I have been waiting for the right time and now it has arrived.
I used to stretch all sorts of parts of my anatomy I never thought I hadNigel Harman
‘As an actor you join the show after the design has been done, the cast has been chosen, the music has been composed, whereas as director you are in at the ground floor of the discussions and it is a much more creative experience.’
Part of that creativity, he says, is being able to deal with all the different departments.
‘I have been always been fascinated by them – as an actor you are standing on stage while they are working their magic out in the auditorium. Maybe I’m just nosy.’
In his role as the diminutive tyrant Lord Farquaad, Nigel had to perform every night on his knees. His preparations involved his bedroom and some protective gear.
‘I got some kneepads and I used to mess around in my bedroom on my knees to get used to it and then I used to stretch all sorts of parts of my anatomy I never thought I had really.
‘And then when the show was up and running, I was at warm-up 15 minutes before the show and did cool-downs 15 minutes afterward, and I would have physio two hours a week. It was hard work, but it was worth it.’
He adds: ‘Gerard Carey who plays the part now – his fitness regime is pretty impressive.’
Shrek is at the Mayflower Theatre from July 8-26. Tickets: £21-£52.50, call (023) 8071 1811 or visit mayflower.org.uk to book.