Laura Main’s swapping midwifery for monsters in her new role and she couldn’t be happier about the unusual job swap.
Best known for playing Sister Bernadette in BBC hit show Call the Midwife, Laura is now going green as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical.
She’s not ditched her habit for good, however, she’ll be returning to the nursing convent later this year when filming begins for series eight.
Laura explains how she’s juggling the Sixties with the swamp.
“The rest of the cast had been booked and they were looking for a Fiona,” explained the actress, whose on screen nun later became Shelagh Turner when she married Dr Turner.
“I got an email from my agent about the role and was really interested, but what was important is that they were willing to break the contract down from 12 months to six months. I knew about series eight of Call the Midwife, so knew that if I got the role of Fiona I could only do the first six months and then a couple after filming has finished. I feel really lucky that I’m able to do both.”
Laura will play Fiona at a number of dates, including when the tour returns to Sunderland Empire later this month, with Amelia Lily playing the role at other dates.
After starting in Edinburgh last month, Laura’s on the road until April, before taking a break for filming with the BBC in May.
She said: “The roles are so different in so many ways. There’s the whole thing of going from TV to live theatre, which is a completely different medium. Then there’s the scale of Shrek, which is a huge production.
“Some of the cast from Call the Midwife came to see me on a press night for Shrek and they couldn’t believe what I was doing. One minute I was dancing with puppets, the next I’m tap dancing. It’s singing, dancing and acting, it’s all aspects with Shrek.
“The thing that does make Shrek and Call the Midwife similar, however, is the amount of affection people have for them.
“Call the Midwife had the highest viewing figures for a drama over Christmas. We care so much about the programme and it’s great that the viewers care so deeply too. The characters from the film Shrek are so brilliant and so loved too. The musical, though it’s relatively new for a musical, is doing so well. People love the characters and they go crazy for it.
“It’s an absolute joy to be a part of and you can feel it, it’s a two-way thing: the audience are having a great time and so are we.”
Laura is joined on stage by her love interest, and swamp-dwelling ogre, Shrek played by Steffan Harri, who starred in the original UK tour of the musical.
Meanwhile, Marcus Ayton stars as Shrek’s wisecracking sidekick Donkey and Samuel Holmes as pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad.
Unlikely hero Shrek embarks on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona from a fire-breathing, love-sick dragon when he encounters the diminutive Lord Farquaad, a gang of fairytale misfits and a biscuit with attitude.
As well as more than 100 fairytale characters, the show also features a colourful score, including Shrek anthem I’m a Believer, and is based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book Shrek! and the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animations feature film.
Laura said: “I watched the film when I got the role, but not over and over again. What’s different with the musical is that we can expand on the film and delve into the characters more deeply, which is important as it means you can really make Fiona your own.”
The actress is no stranger to singing after producers at Call the Midwife were so impressed with her voice that they built singing into her role.
She says it’s great to be able to play to that strength in a musical.
“Fiona is so much fun to play,” she said. “Sometimes she plays up to being a princess, but she’s different to your average princess because she’s so fun and feisty. She’s a character you can really get your teeth into and that makes her great fun to play.
“The musical has a really great message too I think, about being true to yourself, and that’s something that’s important for children to learn, and adults to be reminded of.”
“It works on so many levels, young and old. It’s so colourful, with great songs and humour. Then there’s the set. We have this big 14ft dragon. “Standing in the wings I get excited about it and then you hear the audiences’ reaction.”
•Shrek is at Sunderland Empire from January 31 to February 11. For tickets Tel. 0844 871 3022.