Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre will always be a key venue in Bronté Barbé’s career.
It’s in Southampton that she’s just stepped into the lead role of Princess Fiona in the national tour of Shrek
She’s been with the show for a year as variously Little Red Riding Hood, a blind mouse and a rat, but the first night in Southampton (July 8) saw her enter the ranks of royalty.
Previously, Bronté had understudied “teen Fiona”, as part of the process by which Fiona grows up, from child (borrowed locally in each venue) through teenager to then adult.
“But it was such a shock when I got the part myself. We had a cast change because it is such a long tour. They started auditioning, and I said I would like to audition for the part. It was mostly people from outside wanting to come in, but I loved the show and I knew the story obviously. The audition process can be quite lengthy, but this wasn’t really.”
And Bronté did more than enough to convince – and to win the chance to make the role her own: “I am very different to the girl who was playing Fiona before. It’s just such a wonderful part, but you have got to try to make it yours.
“Fiona is lovely. There are so many quirks to her. She is not exactly your bog-standard princess.”
The show is an invitation to join Shrek, the unlikely hero, and his loyal steed Donkey as they embark on a quest to rescue the beautiful (if slightly-temperamental) Princess Fiona from a fire breathing, love-sick dragon.
“I like it that she is so open. She has a great relationship with the audience. She just comes out and lays her soul out. She is very honest. She is not afraid to say it how it is!”
The show is co-produced by DreamWorks which means lines from the film can transfer straight across: “So in some ways, it is very similar. But in lots of other ways it is very, very different to the film. It is difficult to put your finger on it!”
Bronté graduated from Mountview two years ago – and has since enjoyed an “amazing” time in Hairspray in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, plus also a stint in a concert version of Grease 2. And now a year so far in Shrek, with now eight months as Fiona stretching ahead.
“I still can’t believe it. My mum and sister came to see the show yesterday. I was telling them, I have a break in the first act, and I was in my dressing room thinking ‘I can’t believe this!’”
It’s all pretty spectacular: “There is a huge make-up team. To get Shrek into his prosthetics takes two and a half hours every day. Luckily it comes off very quickly. There is a new batch of prosthetics every day. They are only used once each time.
“It takes me about half an hour to do my make-up. They taught me how to do it myself. And I just looks so different! It is such a transformation!”
Shrek continues at Southampton’s Mayflower until July 26. Tickets on www.mayflower.org.uk.
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