Make-up artists for Shrek the Musical need an extra-ogre-nary amount of talent to quickly transform the cast into their beloved fairytale characters.
Just 49 seconds – that is how long it takes the team to help Laura Main, who portrays Princess Fiona, to change her whole outfit, wig and make-up between two scenes.
But how long would it take the artists to give me a Shrek transformation?
I visited His Majesty’s Theatre to find out.
Head of wigs and make-up Kirsty Lamb met me backstage to uncover the secrets of the cast’s transformation from actors to magical creatures.
And as if being behind the curtains did not already make me feel like part of the experience, I was offered the incredible opportunity to get turned into Mama Ogre, just for an afternoon.
An array of cosmetics in front of her and Fiona’s wig within reach, the artist is prepared.
Kirsty explained: “There are a lot of components with this show, and a lot people don’t see.”
Dozens of prosthetic noses, wigs and make-up products used by the cast for every show are indeed strewn around the surprisingly tidy make-up room – and that does not include the costumes, which are kept in a separate area.
My make-ogre starts with hair preparation as Kirsty places a headband on me to get ready for the wig.
She then grabs the same green make-up paint Laura needs for her character transformation, and applies a thin layer of it on my face.
Kirsty said: “Usually we use a thicker layer of this.
“If you can imagine two people with big paint brushes running about around you, that’s what Laura has to deal with every night.”
Three touches of eye-shadow and two fluffed-up eyebrows later, the ogre look is starting to appear.
A lot of the transformation has to do with shapes and “basic shadowing” which help create exaggerated traits, essential for a successful theatrical look.
After telling me the makeover is “real old-school basic make-up”, Kirsty said: “Shrek is the hardest character, we do him two-and-a half hours before curtain.
“The amount of facial pieces that go into that are ridiculous.”
For every show, six days a week, the artists are also involved throughout the act to help the cast change as fast as possible between two scenes.
Kirsty and Amy Oxley, dance captain, reveal it is common for theatre shows to teach the cast how to do their character make-up themselves before every act.
At Shrek the Musical, Pinocchio, Donkey and Shrek are usually the only ones who require make-up artists’ help before curtains.
But even after Kirsty’s explanations on the shadowing and powdering that made my cheeks look rounder than ever, I still don’t feel I could ever gain the skills to do such a job on my own.
As a final touch, the make-up artist paints my mouth with lipstick because, she says, “of course mama ogre needs a red lip”.
The ultimate accessory, essential to the ogre look, is a large prosthetic nose that I have to put over my own using a skin adhesive.
Although the adhesive feels cold and sticky against my skin, it is definitely effective.
The nose itself is heavy and difficult to breathe through, making me wonder – in awe – how the actors’ performances are not affected by such a strange sensation.
Kirsty explains: “Pretty much every character uses a prosthetic nose, and they all have at least two wigs per show if not more.
“That’s not counting Amy, who plays different characters and has to have a wig for every single one of them.”
The false hair is the last piece Kirsty adds to my look, before smiling to let me know she is done.
Green face, red lips and small ears popping out of my wig – the transformation is ogre.