Joanna Clifton and Antony Lawrence joint Q&A for Shrek The Musical coming to New Theatre Oxford.
Did you know each other before being cast?
JC: No, not at all!
AL: We were performing at an event called Big Night of Musicals in Manchester in February and we had a couple of hours of rehearsal and that's when we met for the first time. I remember you came in and said, ‘Hello, show husband’. That was the very first thing you said to me.
JC: I’m happy that we’re going in the main rehearsal period having already met and done that performance with Brandon Lee Sears. We’ve become friends so it’s really nice going into rehearsals with those relationships in place.
The story of Shrek will be familiar to a lot of people seeing the show – how do you ensure the story, and your characters’ romance, feels fresh?
AL: The great thing about doing Shrek, because it’s a well known story, is that we already know the characters. There's the double-edged sword of wanting to make the characters your own and the relationships your own, but at the same time there is an element of audience expectation. It's finding that balance of wanting to give them what they know, but at the same time we want to find our Shrek and our Fiona and our chemistry between ourselves. That's what makes doing a live version so fantastic, as you get the best of both worlds.
There’s a lot of farting and burping in the show – how do you stop from getting the giggles when faced with such gloriously silly material?
AL: Normally as an actor, when you're on stage, if you feel like you need to burp, you're fighting that urge. The great thing about playing a character like Shrek, who is very flatulent and farts and burbs all the way through the show, is that if I need to burp, I’ll just burp, at any point, and it’ll be completely natural.
JC: But if it comes out at an unexpected time, that's going set me off, and I am bad for laughing. I don’t know whether it's the nerves, the adrenaline, whatever, any tiny thing that happens, I will start laughing. So if you burp at an unexpected time, I'm obviously going to laugh.
AL: I think I can get away with it, in the sense that I think Shrek would find it amusing himself. It’s harder for Joanne and Brandon than it is for me. That said, I’m quite bad for laughing but I’m hoping that the prosthetics are going to hide that.
JC: I think actually I could stay true to myself and Fiona, if that did happen, because I think Fiona would find it funny just like I find it funny, but she would try not to show it because she's trying to be a princess. And that would be true to me: I find it hilarious, but I'm in a show so will be trying to conceal it.
If Shrek and Princess Fiona were a real couple, and invited you to their wedding, what would you buy them as a wedding gift?
AL: It depends on how good a friend I am. If I’m just an evening guest, I’ll just get them a rock or a boulder. If I’m a main guest, they’ll get something nicer.
JC: Something to go around their swamp, maybe. Like a hammock to go between the trees to swing over the muddy water.
AL: If money isn’t an object, then a hot tub full of mud.