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Shrek The Musical: We catch up with Idriss Kargbo who plays Donkey

Gordon Barr chats to Idriss Kargbo as Shrek the Musical gears up to play the Theatre Royal Newcastle

He may only be 19 years old but Idriss Kargbo has a musical theatre CV that is surely the envy of many.

Taking his first tentative steps on the stage aged 10, his first professional role was as the young Simba in The Lion King.

Since then he has won roles in Oliver!, alongside Rowan Atkinson, Thriller Live! and The Scottsboro Boys, to great acclaim.

Now, though, he is making an `ass’ of himself, and he couldn’t be happier. Idriss takes on the role of Donkey in Shrek The Musical, which is at the Theatre Royal Newcastle from March 11 to 29.

I caught up with him backstage in Aberdeen to chat about the show and he is as full of life off stage as his character is on.

“It actually takes me half an hour to get ready,” he explains. “When we come off stage from warm-up I go straight to make-up and that takes about 20 minutes and then, in that time, I get into the spirit of Donkey and start getting my adrenaline pumping.

“As soon as make-up is finished, we go down and slowly start putting my wig on and then the costume, which is a two-piece. I have the main fur costume and then the under one-piece as well, which has padding on it to make me look more animalistic, if that is the word.

“It is great fun, it really is. That is definitely my time to be like `wow I’m actually about to do this’. It really does get me going.”

Based on the award-winning DreamWorks animation film, Shrek The Musical sees audiences join 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.

Add the diminutive Lord Farquaad, a gang of fairytale misfits, and a biscuit with attitude, and you’ve got one of the biggest, brightest musical comedies around,

Helen Maybanks Idriss Kargbo as Donkey in Shrek
Idriss Kargbo as Donkey in Shrek

Featuring all new songs as well as cult Shrek anthem I’m a Believer, it brings all the much-loved DreamWorks characters to life, live on stage, in an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, which had the audience on their feet when I saw it in Aberdeen.

“It’s about an ogre who hates the world and everything around him and he is completely pushed away as a person and he finds love unexpectedly by going on a quest to rescue this beautiful princess Fiona and on the way he finds an annoying talking friend, me, as the Donkey and an annoying Farquaad,” continues Idriss.

“It’s about love and finding love unexpectedly and being accepted for who you are really. It’s a great fun-filled family show and we do stay very true to the film. It’s just a lot of fun, you would be stupid to miss it.

“What’s great about the musical is that you get all these great animated characters from the film that mash really well even though they are all wrong in their different ways.

“In the musical we discover why Princess Fiona is so feisty and not like ordinary princesses you get in a fairytale. We understand why Shrek hates everything around him and is grumpy and doesn’t like to get to know new people, and why Farquaad is so annoying.

“I think the musical explores all the ways of the characters and it is great for the audiences as you don’t just get to meet this annoying donkey you get why he needs Shrek in his life and I think they grow from each other and learn different things from each other which is what makes the friendship so great both on stage and on screen as well.

“I am 19. I’ve been very fortunate. I started at a young age – I’m still quite young – but I started when I was 10 and my first job was the young Simba in The Lion King in the West End. I’ve been so lucky and I have also worked very hard but I am very glad and fortunate to be here.”


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