Discrimination row breaks out over six-foot actor playing 'Shrek' character on his knees

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Shrek The Musical (Credit: SWNS)

A production of Shrek The Musical has run into a discrimination row after a six-foot tall actor was hired as the play’s ‘vertically challenged’ villain.

Samuel Holmes, a veteran actor appearing in the touring show, is playing Lord Farquaad at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, doing so on his knees with fake legs dangling from his waist.

But in a letter to the Plymouth Herald, regular theatre-goer and retired policeman Bill Nicholson, 75, has said that he’s ‘appalled’ by the casting.

“Gradually dwarfs are being frozen out of stage productions in favour of taller actors on a lower salary,” he said.

“The Theatre Royal is following this trend in spite of having thousands to erect a statue which many feel is an abomination especially as council taxpayers are given no choice in, whether to support this or not.”

(Credit: Theatre Royal Plymouth)

The reference to the statue comes after the theatre announced it was to erect a seven-metre high bronze sculpture of Bianca, the courtesan and Cassio’s jealous lover from Shakespeare’s Othello.

Some residents are said to be angry that they will have to walk through the legs of the statue, which will form a gateway, in order to enter the theatre.

Mr Nicolson said that he was ‘appalled to see that yet again an able-bodied and tall actor is to play the part of a dwarf in the hit musical Shrek’.

“I understand that this is partly to do with the fact that dwarfs are normally paid a higher salary to play dwarfs than ‘taller’ people are paid to impersonate them on their knees,” he added.

“Our screens are filled each night with scenes from the BBC Rickshaw Challenge featuring a delightful dwarf called Maisie.

“That is where my money will be going. I for one will not be attending the Shrek musical. What next! Snow white and The Seven Tall people!”

A spokesperson for Theatre Royal Plymouth told the Plymouth Herald: “We aim to bring the best possible theatre to our audiences here in Plymouth and the South West but we have no control over casting for productions playing at TRP as part of a UK tour.

“As a theatre, we embrace diversity. We value difference and individuality, treating everyone as equally important.”

In the original 2001 movie, Lord Farquaard, voiced by John Lithgow, was short in stature, but not portrayed specifically as a dwarf.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the row follows the recent cancellations of some dates in the The Extreme Dwarfanators Wrestling show, a touring dwarf wrestling event, following objections from the Restricted Growth Association, who likened it to a ‘freak show’.

Wrestlers taking part called the objections ‘discrimination’ adding that they ‘should not be told what they can and cannot do’.

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