Shrek The Musical, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until July 26.


Bronté Barbé more than justifies her rise through the ranks to the realms of stage royalty with a lovely performance as Princess Fiona, giving it her all as the hopeless romantic with a healthy touch of strop about her.

She’s been with the show a year in more minor roles before stepping into the princess part on the show’s first night in Southampton, but she takes to it like an ogre duck to water – a key part in a richly-enjoyable evening which quite rightly had the audience on its feet at the end.

Part of the fun is that it is all so familiar from the film; but an even bigger part of the fun is the way it answers the question all us Shrek stage novices have been asking: “Just how on earth do you transfer the film to the stage?”

The answer is they do it with endless invention, oodles of imagination, terrific make-up and tons of humour - plus an array of songs, possibly just a few too many of which are instantly forgettable. But that hardly matters as we are carried along by the sheer fun of it all, Dean Chisnall hitting all the right notes as our engagingly-flatulent, green-skinned hero, Shrek.

There’s a slight feeling that it only really gets going once Shrek and Fiona meet, which is surprisingly late in the show. There’s no doubting the skill with which Barbé and Chisnall bring their characters to life; it’s just they’re better together.

But for all their talents, they’re given a run for their money by the show’s great scene-stealer, a superbly-funny Lord Farquaad, the pint-sized pain beautifully rendered by Gerard Carey with a wonderful array of camp gestures amid his endless, preening nastiness. Throw in a pair of tiny little legs, and he’s a hoot, great expressions combining with great characterisation and great comic timing.

Yes, it’s Shrek’s and Fiona’s story, but it’s Lord Farquaad, villain that he is, that you’ll fall for.

Phil Hewitt