Award-winning group stage another great show with ‘Shrek’

Emma Whithill plays the lovable, Talkative Donkey in Shrek the Musical produced by the Kenya Amateur Dramatics Society (KADS) at Braeburn Theatre Gitanga, March 2, 2024. Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

Kenya Amateur Dramatics Society (KADS) won two awards last Thursday night at the Kenya Theatre Awards ceremony at Safari Park. And from the looks of what we saw this past weekend at Braeburn Theatre Gitanga, KADS is likely to be up for nominations again for several prominent spots on the 2024 awards docket.

Their trophies for Rock of Ages were displayed just before their final performance of Shrek, an immensely popular musical made famous by Dreamworks’ animated film that starred Eddie Murphy in the film and Emma Whithill on stage, dressed in her donkey-coloured heehaw suit and disrupting Shrek’s life for good.

The musical had been embellished with a host of fairy tale characters who had been thrown off their land and dumped into Shrek’s swamp by the megalomanic Lord Farquaad (Joseph Holt) who was so hungry for power that he consulted the truth-telling Magic Mirror (Sian Mousley), asking her what to do to become king. Her advice was to marry a princess. That is how Princess Fiona (Rainbow Field) got involved. She had been cursed by a bad witch to be sent into a high tower at age seven and to stay there until her prince charming came and rescued her with a kiss.

So, Lord Farquaad made a deal with Shrek (Peter Wood) who’d lived alone in the swamp, looking green, scary, and ugly and accepting of his fate, to be a loner forever. But this was not to be. First, donkey arrives to disrupt Shrek’s solitude because he is being hunted by men aiming to use and abuse him. He wasn’t scared of Shrek, but most men were. Shrek could protect him if he just held onto the ogre tenaciously and not let him go until the unhappy green giant couldn’t say no.

Emma Whithill’s Donkey is just as joyful and bouncy fun and, in some ways, even better than Eddie Murphy’s in that the musical, unlike the movie, has everybody

singing and dancing to live music provided by the funky KADS band. That included all the fairy tale characters who had been dumped into Shrek’s swamp while he wasn’t home. This was a double shock for the ogre who found it most unsettling first, to have all of these strangers in his swamp and second, to find he didn’t scare them, the fear factor being the one power he felt he had. But once he heard their story, he realised he had no choice but to confront the land-grabby Lord and demand he get his land back and all the fairy tales be given back theirs as well.

The short stumpy Lord (whose stature was a hilarious costuming feat) was prepared to promise anything to get his princess and the power that went with wedding her. So, he told Shrek, Fiona dwelt in a high tower. What he didn’t tell him about was the flame-flaring dragon who guarded the tower which was also surrounded with fiery hot lava.

Nothing would’ve deterred Shrek in any case. So, he and the talkative donkey set out to fetch the bored maiden who had a secret of her own. Part of the spell cast over her was that she’d be a beauty by day and an ugly green ogre by night. Only the kiss of her true love would break the spell, so when she met her saviour, Shrek, she was shocked and disappointed.

Turns out, he actually is her true love and they end up, like all good fairy tales do, living ‘happily ever after’.

One of the advantages of calling yourself an ‘amateur’ dramatics society is that nobody expects picture-perfect performances. People who join such groups usually have less ego-investment in their work. They are there for the fellowship and the fun. But the Kenya Amateur Dramatics Society also have wonderfully imaginative set designers, make-up artists, and costume artists who came up with a short-legged Lord who made you laugh just to look at him.

Shrek has many messages to convey, like what’s conventionally considered ‘ugly’ and scary needs to be reconsidered, meaning we all need to look below the shallow surface of things, forget about our prejudices and social biases, and appreciate the deeper values of the heart and soul. That’s what Fiona did by the time she accepted the kiss of her ‘true love’. She was now looking through the eyes of love and seeing Shrek’s beautiful green skin and hers as well.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.