Is Shrek com­plaint re­ally the height of ridicu­lous­ness?

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

Oh, dear. In the cur­rent cli­mate of doom and gloom there is surely a sur­feit of se­ri­ous things to grum­ble about.

So much so, that we are spoilt for choice.

One grum­ble that grabbed my at­ten­tion this week as be­ing a grum­ble too far, was crit­i­cism of a six-foot ac­tor play­ing the diminu­tive role of evil Lord Far­quaad in Shrek. This was not out of aes­thet­ics, but some sense of ver­ti­cally-chal­lenged outrage.

Per­haps is shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing.

In a world where peo­ple ac­tively seem to seek out rea­sons to be of­fended, of­fence of­fers its op­por­tunis­tic head ev­ery­where.

And surely the prize for grab­bing it this week must go to an in­dig­nant pa­tron of the The­atre Royal Ply­mouth.

This in­di­vid­ual was ap­par­ently “ap­palled” to see “an able-bod­ied, tall ac­tor” play­ing the part of a dwarf in the mu­si­cal. Such was his ire he de­cided to write a ‘Mr An­gry’ let­ter to the press.

He claimed that taller men and women are be­ing cast in­stead of dwarfs – be­cause the big­ger ac­tors are cheaper. You could ar­gue this point on the fact that there are fewer dwarfs work­ing in the per­form­ing arts – and fewer parts avail­able.

He also said, by way of protest, he would not be “at­tend­ing” the mu­si­cal.

His loss. Maybe if he saw sub­scrip­tion of the Po­lit­i­cally Cor­rect Brigade, would have seen Shrek and ‘got’ the com­edy of Lord Far­quaad.

Play­ing the role, Sa­muel Holmes scut­tles around the stage on his knees, cre­at­ing the il­lu­sion of hav­ing short lit­tle legs.

This is a vis­ual joke – a car­toonesque vi­sion of this iras­ci­ble, im­pe­ri­ous char­ac­ter as he rules his king­dom.

The mu­si­cal is based on the Amer­i­can com­put­eran­i­mated fan­tasy com­edy film.

In essence the theme is about dif­fer­ence, and cel­e­brat­ing our dif­fer­ence. The char­ac­ters in Shrek are all out­casts in one way or an­other. Shrek is a kindly ogre who, be­neath his green skin, shares the same emo­tions as ev­ery­one else.

If the let­ter-writ­ing Mr An­gry wishes to see a real dwarf play­ing the role of a car­toon dwarf I would sug­gest he should think again.

The silly vis­ual ex­ag­ger­ated leg-cross­ing gags only work be­cause we know they are dummy legs. And there is the com­edy.

This theatrical gag of­ten finds its way into show­biz sketches – cre­at­ing much op­por­tu­nity for some hi­lar­i­ous rou­tines with an imag­i­na­tive chore­og­ra­pher.

It would not work with real dwarfs.

The­atre is all about pre­tend. The sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief. Ac­tors per­form, be­come char­ac­ters on stage, and make us be­lieve in them.

But you do not need to take role cast­ing lit­er­ally. In a se­ri­ous play a dwarf can play any part that is cred­i­ble. Be­ing ver­ti­cally chal­lenged is no bar.

And cer­tainly scriptwrit­ers could present more dra­matic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

But I’m less com­fort­able with shows like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

So where do the PC po­lice draw line? Mr An­gry seems too ea­ger to find some­thing to get het-up about. I sug­gest he takes a chill pill.

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