We sat down for a chat with Holly, Ramsay and Arabella, who played the parts of Donkey, Shrek and Fiona in our production of Shrek the Musical. They gave us a behind-the-scenes insight into the show, sharing stories from rehearsals and telling us all about why they decided to get involved. For photos from the production, please click here.

What made you want to be part of the production?

Holly: I’ve been in every production since Second Form and it’s our last one this year, so I definitely wanted to be involved. It’s also the first time in forever we’ve done a musical so that was another reason – I’ve always wanted to do a musical! I was one of the leads in last year’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac, but Shrek is a very different kind of performance so it has been great to cover such a range of styles during my time at Bloxham.

Arabella: I missed out on the opportunity to do the play last year because I didn’t get involved in time. Throughout last year, I knew that I wanted to be part of whatever they decided to do this year. A musical is something I’ve never done before so that was really exciting. I liked the Shrek films growing up too and it’s really helpful knowing the story. I acted at my old school, but I’ve never had a big part before Fiona!

Ramsay: Seeing as this is my final year at Bloxham, I wanted to have a grand finale, so I thought I’d be part of Shrek. That being said, I didn’t expect to get such a big part! I’ve been in school productions before, like The Mabinogion – I was much less famous characters in that, like a fish and a giant. I was in last year’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac where I was the French chef, and I really enjoyed that.

How have you found it taking on this role?

Holly: It’s very different from last year’s production! It’s definitely more fun playing Donkey because he’s a very energetic character, although that has also been quite difficult because I’ve ended every rehearsal absolutely exhausted from jumping around all over the place! I prefer playing Donkey to playing Christian because I can make the role my own, whereas last year I had to play it how it was in the script. This year is more about expressing myself.

Arabella: I have loved being Fiona – it’s been really fun! Working with Mr Hornsby and developing the character, and becoming crazier and crazier in each rehearsal has been great. There haven’t been any rehearsals where we haven’t laughed through it because what we’ve been doing is so funny and enjoyable.

Ramsay: It has been an amazing experience! I never thought I’d get to play a character as iconic as Shrek. I’m flabbergasted to be able to play a role like that. I loved the films growing up, they were some of my favourites.

Do you find it easier to act a funny part or is it more of a challenge than taking on a serious role?

Arabella: I think it depends on who you’re with. We’re all really good friends and really comfortable with each other, so that makes it easy to let loose and get into the comedy.

Holly: The scenes where it’s the core characters together are really easy and fun to play with because we’re all so close so we really bounce off each other’s energy and it works well.

Ramsay: I like to do a bit of both, but I enjoy the comedy the most.

How do you manage your nerves?

Holly: I don’t know, I just do! Before I go on stage, I’ll always recite my lines in my head or sing the song in my head and make sure I know what I’m doing, and do some quiet breathing. The most stressful show is normally opening night where things don’t tend to go as well, so you just need to relax and think that you can do it and that it will be okay.

Arabella: I do the same in terms of reciting it beforehand, and I also find it really helpful to have one of my friends nearby to chat with. When I’m on stage, I sometimes make eye contact with someone I’m comfortable with, or stare up into the lights so I can’t see anyone and it’s like I’m just singing by myself.

Ramsay: I don’t really get too nervous anymore. When you’re actually on the stage, the nerves flow away as soon as you start and get used to it. It’s best to just imagine the audience aren’t there and pretend you’re rehearsing as usual.

How do you find it singing and acting at the same time?

Holly: I don’t have singing lessons but I’m in the choir and have been since Exham, and I’m also in Harmonix. I’ve got a bit of background in singing. It’s difficult singing and acting at the same time. I was very out of breath the first time I sang a song and moved around at the same time. It’s definitely something you have to remember and think about – you have to be so solid on the words. But it’s also really fun because I’ve seen other actors doing it before as an inspiration, and it’s cool to now be doing it myself.

Arabella: I don’t have a singing background at all – I haven’t sung since Year Six! It’s tough, but we went to see a production of Shrek the Musical and that really helped inspire some of the things I do on stage.

Ramsay: I’ve always been a keen singer, but singing while acting is an entirely different thing! I found it awkward to begin with but I’m easing into it now.

Do you have any highlights from rehearsals?

Arabella: Yesterday, we were rehearsing Morning Person and in my song I have to sing to a deer, and they’ve bought this huge inflatable deer which is taller than me! I have to swing it round stage and it was really fun working with Mr Hornsby to work out how I’m going to move this massive deer around stage and make it look good.

Holly: The audition day when we had our call backs was really funny. We had to play different characters and some of the things people were doing was just hilarious! That was the first time we did any accents, and it was so awful but so entertaining. I’m so excited to see it all come together!

Ramsay: I think the first time we did the whole of Act I through – we nailed it and that was phenomenal! It made us all realise that we can do it and that was great.