Interview: Faye Brookes, Princess Fiona in Shrek
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My presence is graced with royalty - kind of. In an empty auditorium, I'm chatting with the female star of Shrek The Musical, Princess Fiona (as played by the wonderful Faye Brookes). As is famously known, Princess Fiona’s life prior to Shrek rescuing her is spent in a dragon-guarded tower, alone. Faye describes her take on this most subversive of fairytale princesses: “She is a sassy, confident and powerful female,” Faye tells me with confidence. “Bearing in mind she’s the only female out of the four leads. There are three men she could be intimated by, but she’s not intimated by anything. “She doesn’t take no for an answer and doesn’t apologise and I like that about her, because I apologise too much.” Trying to imagine a singing ogre with a tap dancing princess may result in concussion, or worse. Shrek’s musical numbers are impeccably put together to form a musical definitely worthy of its West End and Broadway presence. “I love every number we get to do. I even love watching off stage and seeing the fairy tale creatures strut their stuff, because they are the most talented bunch of kids ever. And they are kids. Most of them have literally stepped out of college. It makes me feel old. I’m not. Farquaad is. I always tease him for being old. “I like singing the song with the other Fionas, “I Know It’s Today”. It’s a really powerful song. It’s the first song where you get to kind of know Fiona,” Faye explains. It’s obvious as to why: the number consisted with Fiona growing up on stage almost magically ending with all three Fiona’s singing together. Our chat is before the second night of the show’s performance in Birmingham, so talk turns to opening night. “Electric”, she replies; “I want to stay in Birmingham forever” - in which results in me blurting out “do!” “We should”, she laughs and imitates a tannoy, “Shrek is moving permanently to Birmingham Hippodrome.” She continues: “This is such a fantastic theatre on both sides; the crew is great. They haven’t had a day off but they’re so focused on getting the job done.” Brookes is not one to shy away from powerful and empowering female roles in theatre, having played the principle role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, another musical adapted from film. “Gerry Mitchell knew it was going on tour and he was opening Catch Me If You Can on Broadway and they flew me out to New York. “I had to be in the right frame of mind. I was tunnel visioned and not sure what I did all day. I could hear the Memphis auditions next door and I was like” - she takes a moment to gasp, almost as Elle Woods would have done herself - “I can do this. “I had to sing So Much Better and Legally Blonde (Reprise), when she has that awful moment with Callaghan and her whole world falls apart. “I was so honoured to have met Gerry. I didn’t care if I was getting role, I just met Gerry Mitchell. I’m the youngest ever to have played it and”, she emphasises on the “and”, “the first Brunette to have played it. I don’t think I’ll ever do a show where I play me. There’s always going to be a wig or a hat,” she laughs. So it’s interesting to feel how Faye’s gone from Delta Nu to, well, a swamp. “Yeah that’s a good question,” she begins. “I forget how long ago it is now and I’m so proud of my Delta Nu girls now, everyone’s done so well and is doing so great. One of them is in Wicked now. “We all stuck together as a team because it’s much of a girl’s “we can do anything” and “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s very much the same for this. At the end of Shrek we realise we’re all freaks and that’s ok and that’s the message. It’s ok to be different. “Fiona finds her story tale isn’t what she expects and she gets angry over that. She’s like “like no, that’s not what I wanted”. She has to go through the struggle of accepting her fate and falling in love with Shrek - and who doesn’t want to watch them fall in love? It’s exactly like Elle and Emmet. “Fiona just wanted to find her happily ever after.” Shrek The Musical is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until April 26th. Read our review here.
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