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Norfolk Tourism Awards

Meet the actor playing everyone’s favourite swamp-dwelling ogre in Shrek The Musical

PUBLISHED: 21:52 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:02 27 June 2018

Shrek The Musical
Photo: Helen Maybanks

Shrek The Musical Photo: Helen Maybanks

Helen Maybanks

Everyone’s favourite swamp-dwelling ogre is taking to the Theatre Royal stage this week in Shrek The Musical. Arts correspondent Emma Knights speaks to actor Steffan Harri about playing the title role.

Shrek The Musical Photo: ©Tristram KentonShrek The Musical Photo: ©Tristram Kenton

As Kermit the Frog famously sang, it’s not easy being green, but when you are the star of Shrek The Musical it is definitely a whole lot of fun.

Actor Steffan Harri is currently the main man in charge of the ogre ears and he is having a great time playing Shrek.

“I never thought at the age of 26 I’d be playing Shrek! It’s very bizarre, my older brother is a lawyer, my sister is a doctor, and then I put on a green mask every day and play Shrek for a living!” said Steffan, a farmer’s son from mid Wales who first started singing as a boy in his local chapel.

“I think I could sing before I could talk really,” said Steffan, who since graduating from Guildford School of Acting has enjoyed roles in Les Misérables and Monty Python’s Spamalot as well as Shrek.

Steffan Harri plays Shrek in Shrek The Musical.
Photo: Emma KnightsSteffan Harri plays Shrek in Shrek The Musical. Photo: Emma Knights

It is in fact his second time touring with Shrek, having previously been an ensemble member and cover for pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad, and Steffan said he was “over the moon” to be back on tour in the title role.

Based on the much-loved DreamWorks film, the hit musical tells of how the worlds of Shrek, Princess Fiona, a wisecracking donkey and a colourful cast of displaced fairy tale folk collide.

“I was a massive fan of the film. I was 10 years old when it came out first…I remember going with dad to the cinema,” said Steffan.

“Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, the script is brilliant, and we just elaborate a little bit in the musical, so you see a little bit into Shrek’s background and Fiona’s background, and the message we portray in the show is that it’s okay to be different.”

Shrek The Musical
Photo: ©Tristram KentonShrek The Musical Photo: ©Tristram Kenton

He said one of his most magical moments of the tour to date was in Sunderland when a little girl from the audience shouted out that important message back to him.

“I called myself an ugly ogre, and a little girl shouted from the audience and just said, ‘you’re not ugly Shrek.’

“The stalls just erupted, and that was one of my favourite moments so far in the tour. I got through to that little girl so I was happy.

“It’s something that will stick in my mind for a long time.”

Shrek The Musical
Photo: ©Tristram KentonShrek The Musical Photo: ©Tristram Kenton

When asked about what he likes most about playing Shrek, he said: “There are so many different aspects and so many layers to his character really but I think I really enjoy just jumping out of that picture book right at the beginning.

“I can see probably about the first eight rows back which is fantastic.

“The little kids when I jump out, and they don’t expect it, they are just like wowwww!

“And then I do this big roar as well. Just to be able to see those faces when I jump through at the beginning, that’s definitely my favourite I think.”

Shrek The Musical
Photo: Tristram KentonShrek The Musical Photo: Tristram Kenton

One of the biggest challenges of the role is the incredible Shrek costume that Steffan wears, and which everyday sees him spend a huge amount of time in the make-up department.

“It’s about an hour and a quarter, hour and 30 minutes make-up call every day, and that’s just my face,” said Steffan.

“I also have this incredible fat costume which weighs about 40lbs and it can get up to 37 degrees in the costume...that takes another quarter of an hour to put on, so it’s a big combination.

“It takes about 2.5 hours with make-up and to put the costume on before I even get on stage.”

Kevin Yates plays Papa Bear and other roles in Shrek The Musical.
Photo: Emma KnightsKevin Yates plays Papa Bear and other roles in Shrek The Musical. Photo: Emma Knights

And once the transformation is complete, what is it like performing while wearing a prosthetic nose, ogre ears, a fatsuit and copious amounts of green make-up?

“Singing in the Shrek make-up is tough, it’s like singing in a goldfish bowl!” said Steffan.

“I knew of the challenges the part brought when I did the first UK tour and that’s what attracted me back to the role.

“I wanted something that was going really push me mentally, physically - and it does!”

He added: “It’s such a massive role as well, it’s knackering, we had an alternate last time who did the Sunday shows, but I do all eight this time and by Monday my body does feel it! That day off is welcome!”

Having stopped of in Norwich on the previous Shrek tour, Steffan is now enjoying a return to our fine city.

“I have fond memories of my last visit...The Norwich audiences were well up for it - they enjoyed a bit of Shrek!

“Hopefully they will enjoy Shrek again this time!”

• Shrek The Musical is at Norwich Theatre Royal until July 8. To book, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.

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