A Shrek chronology

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

In 2001, a big, ugly, lovable green ogre called Shrek burst onto our screens and an instant classic was born.

We were intrigued to find out where this off-beat fairytale came from, and how it made its way to the West End, Broadway, and soon to be Canterbury in 2015!

14 November 1907
American cartoonist, sculptor and latterly children’s author William Steig is born in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish immigrants from Austria. His father, Joseph, was a house painter and his mother, Laura, was a seamstress.

Steig graduates from Townsend Harris High School at the age of 15, but doesn’t complete any of the three colleges that he attends, admitting that he had “a defective education”.

Steig sells his first cartoon to The New Yorker, having started to draw when his family suffered from financial problems during the Great Depression. The cartoon has a prison inmate telling another, “My son’s incorrigible, I can’t do a thing with him!”

A book of Steig’s cartoons, entitled Small Fry is published. The New York Times says: “What they prove to the parents and elders is that 8-year-olds do not change from one generation to another, that the world of childhood is compounded of miniature terrors and glorious daydreams, and that Mr. Steig – not to put too fine a point upon it – is wonderful.”

William Steig hard at work in 1973. Image via New York Social Diary.

William Steig hard at work in 1973. Image via New York Social Diary.

William Steig publishes his first children’s book, entitled CDB!, which uses letters to represent words (hence, CDB! becomes “See the Bee”). This is followed by Roland The Minstrel Pig, beginning a career of books that are peopled with animals.

Shrek!, about a young ogre who finds the ogre of his dreams when he leaves home, is published for the first time, written and illustrated by William Steig. The name of the central character is derived from the German/Yiddish word ‘schreck’, meaning ‘fear, terror’.

The beginnings of Shrek.

The beginnings of Shrek.

The animated film of Shrek is released by DreamWorks Animation, starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz. The film will go on to become an international success, closing in the cinema to a worldwide gross of nearly $500M.

2001 Shrek wins an Oscar®, in the new Academy Award category of ‘Best Animated Feature’.

Shrek film
William Steig dies at the age of 95, in Boston, USA. His prolific output has generated more than 25 children’s books, even though he only started writing them in his sixties!

On one occasion he said: “I think I feel a little differently than other people do. For some reason I’ve never felt grown up”, which perhaps helps to explain his interest in this area of publishing. Steig’s passing is noted on the end credits of Shrek 2, with ‘In Memory of William Steig, 1907-2003’.

Shrek 2, is released, followed by Shrek The Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010). Several other shorter Shrek projects are completed, including Shrek 4-D (2004), a ride at Universal Studios and Shrek The Halls (2007), a Christmas special. Shrek is one of the highest grossing film series of all time.

14 December 2008
Shrek The Musical opens at the Broadway Theatre in New York City, starring Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek and Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona. The show is described as ‘true happiness’ by the New York Times and ‘enormous fun’ by the Wall Street Journal.

Shrek at the Broadway Theatre, New York.

Shrek, “Bringing Ugly Back” at the Broadway Theatre, New York.

The North American tour of the musical launches in Chicago starting a 60 city, two-year tour of the US.

14 June 2011

Shrek The Musical has its UK premiere at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, starring Nigel Lindsay as Shrek, Richard Blackwood as Donkey, Nigel Harman as Lord Farquaad and Amanda Holden as Princess Fiona.

Shrek Tour Rehearsals 32, Gerard Carey (Lord Farquaad), Photo Credit - Helen Maybanks

Shrek tour rehearsals begin. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

July 2014
Shrek The Musical hits the road on its first ever tour of UK & Ireland, directed by Nigel Harman.

Feb 2015
The tour arrives with us in Canterbury!

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Shrek The Musical is with us from Wednesday 11 February – Sunday 1 March.

Your theatrical Christmas gift guide

Christmas at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury. Photo by Adam Wood.

So it’s just 14 days until Christmas! Yes, really. That means it’s absolutely no-way-round-it time to get your Christmas gifts sorted.

If you can’t quite brave town or find yourself running out of time, here are a few gift ideas for the theatre-lover in your life to take the drama out of Christmas shopping… (see what we did there!)

Marlowe Theatre Gift Vouchers

A guaranteed night out at the theatre is such a nice treat. You can buy our vouchers for any amount by calling 01227 787787.

Marlowe Theatre Tickets

Again, knowing you have a night out in store would be a lovely gift. For families and musical lovers we have Shrek The Musical here in February, little ones will love Room On The Broom and Sing-A-Long-A Frozen, or maybe it’s a comedy or music fan you’re buying for. You can browse our full listings here – there really is something for everyone.

National Theatre 50th Anniversary DVD

Anyone who caught the live gala performance on television will know what a special night this was, with stars from across the eras performing excerpts from the best National plays. The DVD also includes the two-part Arena documentary on the history of the National Theatre.

£24.99, National Theatre

The Half: Photographs Of Actors Preparing For The Stage

This gorgeous book gives a glimpse into the backstage world, specifically – moments with actors during the half hour before curtain up. There are so many familiar, much-loved faces in this collection and it feels really special to see them at this usually private time.

£17, Amazon

Digital Theatre Gift Certificates

Digital Theatre now have an overwhelmingly impressive online archive of productions, each available to rent or buy. A gift certificate would give someone access to productions such as Much Ado About Nothing starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant, All My Sons starring Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet, Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong, and many more.

Any amount up to £100

Talking Theatre: Interviews With Theatre People

Richard Eyre gives unrivalled access to some of the biggest names in theatre in this book of interviews with the likes of Arthur Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bennett and more.

£7.99, Nick Hern

West End Producer’s book

The mischievous and anonymous producer is infamous on Twitter for his witty remarks and “guidance”. In this debut book, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Acting (But Were Afraid To Ask, Dear), he shares his wisdom and insider gossip in trademark comedic fashion.

£8.79, Nick Hern Books

Aladdin: the reviews are in!

Aladdin at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury. Photo by Paul Clapp.

Photo: Paul Clapp

So Aladdin is up and running and you guys are absolutely loving it! We’ve rounded up our reviews so you can see what the critics think, and you can also read audience comments here.

If you see the show, please do tweet us @marlowetheatre or share a message on Facebook to let us know what you thought!

“Featuring a glittering cast…The show is a brilliant visual sensation and we were enthralled by both the jokes and the fabulous acting. We were crying out with laughter at the actors’ hilarious high-jinks.

This pantomime is certainly well worth a visit. It’s sure to fill you all with festive cheer.”

The Sun

“Our three-year-old Oscar, a panto first timer, was rolling with laughter at the slapstick comedy, grooving in his seat to the songs and was thoroughly carried away with the traditional audience participation that all kids, and most of the adults in the audience, love.

If you still haven’t booked your tickets do it now. This is a West End-style panto here in our fair city. And you most definitely get your money’s worth and much more.”

Kentish Gazette

“riotous and great fun…The children will love the fun (audience participation is the name of the game) and the clutch of modern songs including Pharell’s Happy, while adults will be able to have a giggle at the more ‘grown-up’ quips…Sabrina Aloueche steals the show as the Essex-girl Spirit of the Ring.”

Canterbury Times

Scott Maslen and Sabrina Aloueche in Aladdin at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. Photo by Paul Clapp.

Scott Maslen and Sabrina Aloueche in Aladdin. Photo by Paul Clapp.

“As Widow Twankey, [Roddy] steals every scene he is in, with outrageous costumes, smart quips, and a confidence and comfort in his surroundings – that it is impossible not to warm to him.

But then its difficult not to warm to the Marlowe panto each year. It reeks of quality and family entertainment. The sets of Aladdin are rich, the effects, at times, remarkably spectacular.

Without wishing to spoil anything, the magic carpet sequence is breathtaking and there’s plenty of animal magic on stage too with some well executed set pieces.

This is an excellent, high quality production, full of all the ingredients a pantomime needs to make your Christmas sparkle. You’ll laugh and sing and probably want to go back again the following night.”

Kent On Sunday

“bringing trademark sunshine to the South East… lavish sets (Helga Wood’s design); slick musical numbers; gloriously over-the-top costumes (including some to rival the three giants last year); and, of course, those ‘spurious comedy sketches’…Spectacular.”

Public Reviews ★★★★

Aladdin at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury. Photo by Paul Clapp.

Photo by Paul Clapp.

“Pure pantomime spectacle…Pyrotechnics, fire and a strong lighting design add to the sense of spectacle, but it is slapstick and comedy that form the show’s backbone and are the trademark of an Evolution pantomime.

Roddy is a superb Twankey….The art of Daming takes many years to refine and Roddy demonstrates the variety of skills the role demands, from pratfuls to puns, seductiveness to silliness whilst balancing caring with chaos in perfect measure.

As Wishee Washee [Phil] Gallagher delivers an energetic and engaging performance, and Lloyd Hollett completes the terrific trio as PC Pongo. Hollett is one of the best comics Pantoland has to offer.

Topping the bill, Scott Maslen is a wonderfully camp and conniving Abanazar who isn’t afraid to send himself up.”

British Theatre Guide

“…a luxury product including plenty of spectacle: flying across the auditorium, a near life-size stage elephant and a malevolent giant mummy. Eight fine ensemble dancers and Helga Wood’s lush sets add zest too.”

The Stage

Lloyd Hollett in Aladdin at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. Photo by Paul Clapp.

Photo by Paul Clapp.

“An incredibly lavish backdrop and range of glitzy costumes…a range of incredible dance sequences.

Scott Maslen…is utterly entertaining as the wicked wizard. Mister Maker (Phil Gallagher) who is a winner among mums and dads too with his comic timing and occasional naughty joke…Ben Roddy…is pure comedy gold, with an extensive and flamboyant wardrobe and feisty attitude; the late Dave Lee would certainly be proud.

It is Sabrina Aloueche as the Spirit of the Ring however who wins the vocal competition.

Once again, the Marlowe panto is an all-round fantastic performance. The show is always a delight for the whole family and they’re only getting better with age.”

The Void

“…as glitzy, spectacular and eccentric as you could want a Christmas panto to be.

The production is an absolute extravaganza.  Between the detailed costumes and elaborate sets, Aladdin has more glitz than a disco-ball. It’s absolute madness and the kids love it.

Aloueche, playing The Spirit of the Ring, stands out as the most talented cast member by far, showcasing her background in some serious London musicals. As well as singing and dancing, she reveals an unexpectedly funny side (considering she has performed in the none-too-cheery Les Mis). The audience also goes wild for her rendition of Let It Go.”

Plays To See

“Another outstanding pantomime from The Marlowe Theatre, with an extremely talented supporting cast who never fail to make the audience laugh.”

The Angry Microwave ★★★★

Aladdin is at The Marlowe Theatre until Sunday 11 January.

Panto public appearances

Our Aladdin cast, left to right: Scott Maslen, Lloyd Hollett, Ben Roddy, Bentley Kalu, Masashi Fujimoto, Phil Gallagher, Christine Allado and David Albury.

Our Aladdin cast, left to right: Scott Maslen, Lloyd Hollett, Ben Roddy, Bentley Kalu, Masashi Fujimoto, Phil Gallagher, Christine Allado (Princess Jasmine, now being played by Rosa O’Reilly) and David Albury. Photo by Tim Stubbings.

It’s that time of year again!

It’s 41 days until Christmas (yes, really) and just 15 days until pantomime begins. Our cast are busy rehearsing but they’re also going to be taking some time to do the exciting job of switching on the Christmas lights and meeting you guys.

So, here’s where you can catch them:

Canterbury High Street Christmas Lights Switch-On
Thursday 20 November at 6pm
With Scott Maslen, Phil Gallagher, Ben Roddy, Lloyd Hollett and other members of the cast

Deal Christmas Lights Switch-On
Friday 21 November at 7pm
With Scott Maslen, Phil Gallagher, Ben Roddy, Lloyd Hollett and other members of the cast

Whitefriars Christmas Event
Saturday 22 November at 1pm
With Scott Maslen, Phil Gallagher, Ben Roddy, Lloyd Hollett and other members of the cast

Fenwick Toy Department Meet And Greet
Saturday 22 November at 2pm
With Phil Gallagher, Scott Maslen, Ben Roddy, David Albury (Aladdin) and Rosa O’Reilly (Princess Jasmine)

Ashford Christmas Lights Switch-On
Saturday 22 November at 4pm
With Scott Maslen, Ben Roddy, David Albury (Aladdin) and Rosa O’Reilly (Princess Jasmine)

Dover Christmas Lights Switch-On
Saturday 22 November at 5pm
With Phil Gallagher, Lloyd Hollett, Sabrina Aloueche (Spirit of the Ring), Bentley Kalu (Genie of the Lamp) and Masashi Fujimoto (Emperor of China)

Aladdin is at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Friday 28 November to Sunday 11 January.

Philharmonia At The Movies: Beam Me Up Barry!

Barry Norman

Our host for the evening, film legend Barry Norman.

This season sees the opening of a new series by the Philharmonia Orchestra: Philharmonia At The Movies. On Friday 21 November we will be bringing you the soundtrack to some of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time.

We are lucky to have the fabulous presenter and film critic, Barry Norman, well known for hosting BBC 1’s Film programme, presenting programmes on BBC radio, and as a columnist for The Radio Times. You may have even seen our interview with him on BBC South East earlier this month, but if not, we can promise you that with Barry’s wit, charm and anecdotes a plenty, it’s going to be a great night out!

Leading the Orchestra, is young conductor James Shearman, who made his name orchestrating Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005), Bridget Jones Diary (2001) and many more.

So let’s find out a little bit more about the great composers behind some of the most heard and well-known theme tunes of all time.

One of the most recognised names among these is of course John Williams, known for the scores of films such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park and the first three Harry Potter films. He has had a long association with director Steven Spielberg, composing the music for all but two of Spielberg’s major feature films. It’s hardly possible to hear the main theme of E.T. without picturing an alien on a flying bike silhouetted against the moon and as for the Star Wars theme, well nothing is more evocative of heroism or adventure.

E.T. Photo via Adventure Journal.

That moment in E.T. Photo via Adventure Journal.

Alan Silvestri, another American born composer and conductor who works primarily in film and television, is famous for penning the themes to Back To The Future and Predator. Silvestri, coming off the success of Back To The Future, was the only composer to have scored more than one film in either the Alien or Predator series and is well known for familiar musical description in his music; heavy horn blasts for dramatic effect, staccato string rhythms to build tension, and rippling timpani rolls to create suspense. He is a master at telling the audience the mood even before the scene has begun!

Hans Zimmer wrote the score for Inception, and features guitar, played by Johnny Marr, former guitarist of The Smiths. The main character, Cobb, is a thief who steals information from the subconscious but in doing this has given up everything he ever loved; Zimmer describes his score as very electronic and dense, trying to match Cobb’s feelings of nostalgia and sadness throughout the film. Zimmer integrated elements of Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien into his score, in particular, the film’s iconic brass instrument fanfare resembles a slowed-down version of the song’s original sound.

Bringing it back across the pond is English composer and conductor of film music, John Barry, famous for the music of eleven of the James Bond films and Dances with Wolves. Barry counts Goldfinger (1964) as his personal favourite of all his 007 scores. The theme tune for You Only Live Twice, which we will hear on the night, was recorded by Nancy Sinatra, who was reported to be very nervous while recording and wanted to leave the studio as worried she sounded apparently so “like Minnie Mouse”. The final recording of this theme tune consists of 25 different takes!

So… not too much longer to wait now to be transported to a galaxy far, far away…

The Philharmonia Concert Season is supported by Pharon Independent Financial Advisers Limited.

Beached: an interview with actor James Dryden

James Dryden as Arty during Beached rehearsals. Photo by Ludovic des Cognets.

James Dryden as Arty during Beached rehearsals. Photo by Ludovic des Cognets.

With just a few days to go until the premiere of our homegrown dark comedy Beached, we had a quick chat with the brilliant actor playing lead character Arty – James Dryden.

What did you first think when reading the script?

I thought, “they do know I’m not 67 stone right!”. I was also genuinely excited about the prospect of being a part of it. I love a good dark comedy and this ticked all the boxes for me.

Tell us about Arty.

Arty is lovely. He is a 67 stone 18-year-old who seems to be quite happy plodding along with life as it is living with his mum. Throughout the course of the play he realises that he perhaps wants to change the way he lives his life in order to be a “human being”. I think Arty is a gentleman.

How do you feel about, and how have you prepared, for playing Arty?

I feel very excited to be playing the role of Arty. It is a big challenge having to be sat down for most of the play as I need to keep my energy up. I suppose I’ve been preparing myself by having to eat lots and lots of cream buns and chocolate eclairs (which is quite nice). I’ve got a feeling that I may need to renew my gym membership after the play ends…

Why should people come and see Beached?

It’s a great play, packed full of cracking scenes. It’s very funny and also very moving. It’s one of those plays that will get people talking afterwards and I think that that is important.

You can also read an interview with director Justin Audibert and an introduction to all our cast members.

Beached is at The Marlowe Studio from Tuesday 28 October to Saturday 1 November, and at Soho Theatre (Soho Upstairs) from Tuesday 4 to Sunday 23 November.

*The production contains adult themes and language.

Beached: an interview with director Justin Audibert

Cast in rehearsals

Robin Weaver, James Dryden, Justin Audibert (director), Alison O’Donnell and Rhoda Ofori-Attah.

In our previous blogpost we introduced you to the brilliant cast and director of Beached, the first play to be created by The Marlowe – premiering at The Marlowe Studio next week before a transfer to Soho Theatre.

We managed to sneak in during a break from rehearsals to find out more from director Justin Audibert.

What did you first think when reading the script?

The first thing that struck me on reading Beached was just how funny the script was. Mel writes some absolutely fantastic lines but what is so unusual about the piece from an emerging writer is that the humour shines through because it comes from a place of truth. You completely believe that the characters are fully rounded people inhabiting a real, if highly eccentric, world and you empathise with them in all their various dilemmas.

Mel sent me the script after seeing a play that I directed and from the moment I read the opening page I had that itch that made me really want to tackle it and bring this world to life.

Beached explores some sensitive issues in a darkly comic way – do you feel any pressures around that?

Beached is a big play – in many senses of the word. It explores obesity, addiction, dependency, pathology, voyeurism and manipulation by the media but above all else it is a play about love and loneliness. Everyone can relate to being lonely and most people can relate to what it feels like to love and be loved both in a romantic and familial manner.

I absolutely relish research so finding out about the various psychological conditions within the play was fascinating. I have a friend who is a psychiatrist, Dr Norman, and he talked me through the cycle of change which is the label that psychiatrists use for the circular nature of addiction – that was really interesting.

I also got to watch lots of reality TV documentaries about obesity, which was revealing if at times very hard watching, and really made me think about just what our fixation with these documentaries means as a society.

In rehearsals we spent a lot of time working out the back stories of all the characters so we felt that we could justify the choices that they have made in the play. It soon became clear to us that all of the characters believe that they have Arty’s best interests at heart and are motivated predominantly from a belief that they are doing him good. We hope that this leaves the audience in a position to make their own judgements and not to feel as though we are telling them what to think.

The nature of addiction and the way we view and treat the obese, the lonely and the marginalised as a society seems to me to be an increasingly urgent question. Humour is actually a wonderful tool in asking questions about this because people don’t feel preached at and are often more receptive to thinking about bigger themes when they are presented in an entertaining way.

I would say that as a theatre maker I am interested in stories that portray the complexity of life’s choices. And I would also say that I am predominantly fascinated by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This brings with it a huge responsibility to portray those characters as accurately as possible and to try to create nuance in that depiction.

James Dryden as Arty and Robin Weaver as Jojo, during Beached rehearsals. Photo by Ludovic des Cognets.

Robin Weaver as JoJo and James Dryden as Arty, during Beached rehearsals. Photo by Ludovic des Cognets.

How has it been working with the cast been so far?

On this show I was extremely lucky in that although the casting process took quite a long time every actor that I offered a part to accepted and so I have the four actors I most wanted to work with which is a real privilege.

We started the process with Melissa [Bubnic] in the room, sat around a table, exploring the script together and we were fortunate in having Mel there to help answer questions about the character’s motivations. Then after a few days Mel left us and we started standing the play on its feet. We finished a rough sketch of the whole piece in about five days and are now adding detail, refining the scenes and deepening the work.

The company worked incredibly hard to get themselves ‘off book’ (ie learning all their lines) quickly, which always makes the work richer because only when you know your lines are you able to act with your whole body which adds so much to the storytelling.

We also have a wide range of accents in this play so the company have been assiduously mastering those – particularly Robin who is learning James’ native Lancastrian burr in order to play JoJo.

Now we are at the stage where we’ve arrived in Canterbury, ready to get on the set designed by the brilliant Lily Arnold, so that we can work out the various challenges that will present. We are all very excited about this even though we know that with such a particular design we will have new challenges to overcome and will have to alter some of the choices we have already made.

What would you like people to take away from the play?

I think if the audience come away with a sense of empathy for all the characters in the piece, get provoked into thinking about the themes it explores, admire the multi-faceted performances of the cast, celebrate Mel as an exciting new writer, admire the design team’s work and have a really good evening full of belly laughs in the process, then I will be a very happy director.

Who would enjoy Beached?

Rather wonderfully I think that anyone over the age of 12* who has a sense of humour will enjoy the piece – it’s one of those plays to which you can invite all your friends and family as it’s humorous, clever, theatrical and only 75 minutes long. It’s a bit of a short, sharp, very funny shock!

Beached is at The Marlowe Studio from Tuesday 28 October to Saturday 1 November, and at Soho Theatre (Soho Upstairs) from Tuesday 4 to Sunday 23 November.

*The production contains adult themes and language.