He’s not such an ogre...

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date published: 04 February 2016

Shrek, Lowry, to February 20

SHREK returns to Manchester to wind up its marathon tour a year after it began, and we’re all still very much in love with this stage version of the brilliant animated movie.

But to be hypercritical, a year on the road has left the show a little less fun than it was, certainly lacking just a little bit of energy, and on second viewing it’s clearly a musical at its very best first time round, when all the jokes are new and memories of the movie are strongly anticipated.

Second time round it’s clear that the let-down — if it can be said to be that — is the score, which doesn’t have any strong tunes to go with some otherwise sharp and funny examples of the lyric writer’s art.

And it’s also clear that the central character of the movie isn’t quite so important on stage. Though Dean Chisnall is a terrific Shrek (as he has been throughout the tour), the character is overshadowed a little by the feisty Fiona (Bronte Barbe — the only change to the top four from the Palace visit last Christmas), the rather more animated this time Donkey (Idriss Kargbo) and the simply magnificent Farquaad of Gerard Carey, the character elevated — if that’s the right word, since he’s notably short and has legs and feet pinned to Carey’s knees (on which he comically walks) — to chief comedy character.

Farquaad is a wonderful creation in Carey’s hands: a little camp, a little lewd, haughty, desperately hateful of being the son of one of the seven dwarfs, and determined to be king so he can legitimately clear the land of fairytale characters — you know the story.

What gives Carey the edge is a face born to be in charge and a delicious sense of the ridiculous, put to good use in Farquaad’s best known exchange with the Gingerbread Man, and in his glorious physical comedy, those legs and that little body defying gravity with hilarious results.

If you didn’t catch it a year ago, this remains a brilliantly funny show, with great sets and lighting and a finely-honed cast of soldiers, fairytale characters and familiar story and dialogue. If you are seeing it for the second time, it won’t seem quite so brilliant, but you won’t exactly be disappointed — it’s still by far the funniest show in town.