Why is Shrek green? Is Shrek Scottish or Irish? How tall is Shrek? And what’s he like to work with?
These are some of the questions we put to Richard Quincey, Head of Performance for Shrek’s Adventure! London, a genuine expert on the topic of everyone’s favourite cuddly green ogre. Read on to discover the most fascinating facts about Shrek, answers to the internet’s most-searched Shrek questions, and for a glimpse into the inner workings of one of the UK’s most exciting and heartwarming family attractions.
What’s life like at Shrek’s Adventure! London?
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today – the first few questions are all about you! What is your role at Shrek’s Adventure? What does this involve/what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
So I’m Quincey – I’m the Head of Performance for Shrek’s Adventure. Basically I look after all of the shows, actors, and pretty much all of the fun stuff that our guests get to see. I help with writing the shows, the scripts, the characters, the direction… as well as hiring excellent talent who can bring it all to life.
It’s the bits that makes the audience gasp, cry, scream, laugh… all of those things!
How long have you worked here?
Well I’ve been with Merlin since 2001 – I started as an actor at the London Dungeon, and worked my way up from there! I became Head of Performance for Shrek’s Adventure in 2015. It sits next to the London Dungeon and SEA LIFE London Aquarium on the South Bank – all under me.
So anybody that does a show at the Dungeon, or does a talk on rays, or brings to life the Muffin Man or Princess Fiona – I’m the one that’s got to look after them!
The London Dungeon is a pretty amazing place too – that must have been an interesting start as an actor.
It was! The beauty and, I say this a lot for the guys that we recruit now, is it’s almost like that resident theatre, or repertoire theatre that died out – you know, learning your craft, being able to perform day in day out to potentially near-on 3,000 people. You wouldn’t be able to perform that even if you were to take your own show to Edinburgh! Just to have that reaction from guests so often, it’s a really good learning curve and it’s something that the guys in the cast now across the sites really benefit from.
And because you’ve had that experience yourself, it must also mean you have a pretty good idea of what life is like for the actors?
I think it gives me a bit more credibility for my role – to have been on the front line, to have done those shows. I’m never gonna ask the team to do anything that I don’t think is possible, or isn’t achievable, or is not real within the operational constraints. I think that does help in terms of having that creative while still being operationally sound kind of mind!
What do you love most about it?
There are two sides of the coin for me – one is you’ve got to love why you do it, which is the guests’ reactions. That memorable experience, bringing those families together. The beauty of Shrek is multi-layered – so there’s something there for the adults, the kids, there’s an element of nostalgia for a lot of parents from what they remember from the films growing up.
The other side of that coin is working with talented actors, performers, and creatives day in day out – there’s so many great team members I’ve worked with and cast I’ve worked with in the past where I just really thought “wow, that’s impressive what they’ve done with that character” or “I love the way they’ve portrayed that role.” Being able to flip that coin from one side to the other on a daily basis really is a special job. It really is.
Shrek’s Adventure reviews and insider tips
I had a look at the reviews on Tiqets for Shrek’s Adventure earlier – and the lowest rating I could find was four stars. It’s almost unanimous five-star reviews.
That’s brilliant! That’s great. In our business, there’s always going to be subjectivity. People will always have different opinions – that’s the beauty of theatre, of live performances – no two shows are gonna be the same. Even the same actor is going to have a different reaction from one group to the next – part of my role is trying to get that consistency across live performances, which is always difficult! But I love that that was the lowest rating – it proves that what we’re doing is working.
For you personally, if you had to pick one, what is your favourite part – or any specific moment – during the adventure? An unfair question!
I have to say, for me, it’s probably Muffin Man. I think Muffin Man is the part where all of the ingredients and all of the adventure comes to a head. You’re meeting a character that’s really fun, really enjoyable to be with. You’ve got Gingy (also known as the Gingerbread Man) in the room, providing a little bit of that Shrek magic; you’ll have Donkey, who makes an appearance as well. I think it’s a good, good show.
Are there any hidden gems? Things that people might not necessarily notice or pick up on if they’re not paying close attention?
I think the beauty lies in a lot of the sets. For a lot of them, the attention to detail that has been put in is really, really good. You could easily miss for example the three blind mice sunbathing in the lava pot! Again, if you’re talking Muffin Man, it’s things like the eyeball cakes that are in the set, hidden in the background.
All of that attention to detail – like an axe in the dartboard at the Poison Apple – all of that subliminally helps with the immersion, and helps you feel that you’re getting lost in this world, into Far Far Away. You can never pick it all up in one journey – you’ve really got to go around again to pick up on all of these hidden gems.
A lot of people who read this might not have visited before. What tips do you have for first-time visitors?
Volunteer! Throw your hand up, get involved. If you become part of that story, part of that adventure, you get more out of it. Ask a question to Princess Fiona; if you see Cinderella, ask her what her favourite shoe is apart from a glass slipper. The cast love it – yes, there’s a script they need to follow, but because they know these characters so well, being able to do a little improvisation is great for them.
It’s a friendly environment, and it’s specifically designed to be interactive; designed to really get you to play your part in the adventure.
The best Shrek characters to meet at Shrek’s Adventure (and who to avoid)
Next, we have some more Shrek-specific questions. This next one is the question on everyone’s mind: What is Shrek like to work with?
Ha! Well, Shrek himself, he can be a bit high-maintenance. He likes things to be done in a certain way. Working with him, he’s pretty tall – so he does need to duck a lot as he’s walking through corridors and around the venue. You need to give him some space when he walks towards you, as he’s a big fella. But he’s definitely not a diva – he’s still keeping it real.
Shrek usually gets all the praise, but the series has plenty of other amazing characters. Who is your favourite non-Shrek character and why?
I think Princess Fiona. The beauty of Fiona for me is that unlike many other princesses that are out there, she’s a badass! She can stand up for herself, she has a great view of the world and how it should be, and I think she’s always the voice of reason. When you look at girl power, for me, Fiona is top of the league there.
I’ve also heard you have a soft spot for the Muffin Man.
I do love the Muffin Man. He’s genuinely got some great lines, and there’s great humour in the show. I’m a big fan of the Muffin Man. Again, that show brings everything together – it’s a key part of the whole adventure. You can get some young kids who are a little bit scared of stepping forward and volunteering; sometimes they can be a bit daunted by some of the sets, or some of the actual story of the witches and Rumplestiltskin. But Muffin Man always puts them at ease, always reassures them, and can really bring a child to laughter.
You may have just mentioned him, but do you have a least favourite character? Is there a particularly dastardly villain?
I think it’s gotta be Rumplestiltskin, the villain of the piece! But without a villain you wouldn’t have a good story, so you do need the villain to play his part. He’s certainly the rascal in our adventure.
What makes him such an unpleasant figure?
I think it’s certainly his relationship with the witches, not a positive one. He often gets them to do his work for him. The way he treats people, speaks to people… very unpleasant and very rude! There’s no fee for good manners, and he doesn’t have any of them.
Why is Shrek green? The internet’s top Shrek questions, answered
Next, we’ve rounded up the internet’s top questions about Shrek. Let’s see if we can get some answers from an expert! First up: why is Shrek green?
I think it has to do with the swamp that he lives in – if you’ve been brought up in a swamp and take mud baths, you certainly won’t be a nicer colour than green, that’s for sure!
The second-most popular question that people ask is this: why is Shrek so good?
There is that nostalgia with Shrek – I think it’s been around 20 odd years since the first Shrek film. You do have that nostalgia factor for a lot of adults now who think ‘’Ah, this was important for me when I was growing up” and now want to share it with their children. I remember these films and laughed along with them – but certainly for a family to come, there’s the fun and laughs that an adult can have that can go over the kids’ heads, and there’s some fart jokes in there that the kids can certainly laugh at and get a giggle going. It does kind of appeal to all ages still.
Next, we have a very specific question: How tall is Shrek?
He’s taller than me and I’m 6’3, so he’s quite tall! He does need to duck as he goes through some corridors. He’s going on 7 foot plus at the minute.
Is Shrek Scottish or Irish?
A healthy mix of both! He’s got a nice Scottish twang to him, which came from Mike Myers’ portrayal – but he’s got a nice heritage of both Scottish and Irish there. And a little island in between!
The next one is a question I’m almost embarrassed to ask, but it was on the list of popular Shrek questions suggested by Google: Why is Shrek so hot?
Haha! When you see what Shrek looks like as Prince Charming when he gets his wish in Shrek 2, he’s a muscly mountain of a man. I think he obviously works out and cares for his physique. And who doesn’t like his little twiddly ears?
There is an undeniable appeal to human Shrek, especially with a beard.
Passionate ogre fans, a classic soundtrack, and flying donkeys…
I recently interviewed the One World Observatory, and they actually have their own unique scent. Nowhere else in the world has this – it’s unique to their location and their identity. If Shrek’s Adventure could have its own scent, what would it smell like?
Shrek always describes himself as being like an onion, so I think there should be a bit of pungent onion in there. Since his best friend Donkey loves waffles, I think it should be balanced with some sweet-smelling waffles as well – it would be a nice rotten, pungent, sweet, cinnamon-y waffle-y smell.
There’s a huge Shrek fandom on the internet. Do you ever get extremely passionate Shrek fans visiting Shrek’s Adventure?
We do, we do. We get people in Shrek Ears and Princess Fiona gear, and we’ll get adults who come in and buy those, and who take off their jackets to reveal their Shrek T-shirts. We get lots of people who are excited to get a picture with the Big Guy himself.
Once, when I was actually playing Shrek, we had this couple come through, and the lady asked her partner to take a photo – after the picture she started bowing down and worshipping Shrek, which was a very strange feeling. You really do get fanatical fans who meet their idol!
Lots of people will bring up Smash Mouth – All Star, but the original Shrek soundtrack really is up there in terms of the best movie soundtracks of the last 20 or so years. What’s your favourite song from there?
It’s difficult! Certainly for me, I’m A Believer is our favourite at the attraction. It’s so important to the story, and it kickstarts your journey at the Magical Bus Depot to Far Far Away. I think that one is up there, but it’s close. There are some real crackers.
Speaking of the magical 4D flying bus, Donkey serves as the driver. How difficult was it to train him to drive the bus?
He does have a bit of experience with flying, but the main problem with Donkey is that he loses focus quite quickly – he can get distracted! We have to make sure that there’s no smell of waffles, or anything else that could distract him.
Shrek puns and an encounter with Tyson Fury
What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had at Shrek’s Adventure? Apart from someone literally worshipping Shrek.
One that does spring to mind is when Tyson Fury brought his family around. You’ve got this champion boxer, this massive man getting involved, enjoying it with his kids, and laughing and joking with the team. He was HUGE, and for somebody who some people could find an intimidating figure, he was fully involved and was involved with all the jokes. It’s great to see how you can reach people, how you can make those people who you’d never in a million years think would be into it, suddenly become another father figure.
Was he taller than Shrek?
We have a photo of him with his fists up next to Shrek, and they were level – so they were actually quite a similar height! [Editor’s Note: Tyson Fury is approximately 2.06 m tall, or 6’9, confirming that Shrek is approximately 7 feet tall.]
Have you had any other celebrity encounters at Shrek’s Adventure?
We had Danny Dyer come around for the How To Train Your Dragon re-launch, and he was good fun. We also had Stacey Solomon who brought her family around. Again, these people often remember it from when they were children and want to share it with their kids and say ‘’Look, this is something I really enjoyed, and you can enjoy it as well!” It’s nice when you do get these people, and for the team there’s an extra buzz when someone like that is in the audience.
The Shrek’s Adventure website has some really good Shrek puns on there. What’s the best Shrek pun you’ve ever heard?
I think ‘Shrekcellent’ is up there, and is part-and-parcel of being at our office now. Even when we’re not out in public, we’ll come up with the occasional ‘’ah, that’s Shrekcellent news!’’ My favourite joke would be:
‘’My wife said she would leave me if I kept quoting Shrek. I didn’t believe her…
… But then I saw her face.’’
That’s all the questions we have for today – but is there anything else that you’d like the world to know about Shrek’s Adventure?
For me, I know a lot of people wonder if it’s too touristy, is it this, is it that – but for a lot of people, especially for kids, it’s their first kind of grasp of theatre. When prices at a theatre are high, this is a way of going into that world but in a way that’s immersing yourself; you’re not just sitting in a chair, but you’re part of the story, part of the adventure, and being up close to these characters is just really exciting.
I know when I took my children around at a young age, they just lapped it up, to the point now where one wants to be an actor, and one wants to be a singer – it’s just a great introduction to that kind of theatrical world! No tour is ever going to be the same, because that beauty of theatre means that a different actor will always put a different spin on a different character. It’s truly magical to come around and see.