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A crowd of people at a shrek rave
Photograph: Lyle Boenke

We went to the UK’s first Shrek rave – here’s what it was like

Ogre-themed parties are taking the world by storm. Time Out can confirm they’re worth the hype

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

It’s 6.15pm on a Saturday night, somewhere under the railway arches of Vauxhall train station. To my right, a quartet of Lord Farquaads are head-banging to a drum and bass remix of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’. To my left, a burly Shrek has his tongue down Fairy Godmother’s throat. And on the stage, projections of rainbow-hued acid-house smiley faces – complete with ogre ears – are revolving behind the DJ decks.  

This is the UK’s first ever Shrek rave. The unlikely phenomenon has taken the US by storm – touring everywhere from Philadelphia to Los Angeles – and now it’s landed in the UK, with events coming up in Manchester, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Norwich, Colchester and basically every other British town with a PRYZM nightclub. Apparently, more than 1,500 people partied at the first London show. Another 30,000 customers are expected to attend Shrek events up and down the country over the course of the next nine weeks, before the events roll out across Europe, from Oslo to Athens. The hype is very much real: the hashtag #shrekrave has been viewed 27 million times on TikTok, where revellers are sharing videos of twerking Fionas and Pinocchios necking tequila shots. 

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So, why all this bizarre nostalgia for the decades-old Dreamworks film franchise? And what exactly goes down at a Shrek rave?

The outfits

An integral part of the Shrek-rave experience is the fits, and you can bet that myself and fellow Time Out writer India are getting fully involved. Listening to the ‘Shrek 1’ soundtrack to get in the mood for my big night out, I cake my eyelids in silver-blue eyeshadow and draw on exaggerated, spindly eyebrows, to somewhat resemble Doris, the ugly stepsister-slash-bartender from ‘Shrek 2’. India goes for a more subtle look with a red vintage dress, big fur coat and handmade tinfoil wand (#sustainable), resembling the one and only Fairy Godmother. Quite the pairing.

A crowd of people at a Shrek rave
Photograph: Lyle Boenke

It’s broad daylight when we leave the house, with the Shrek rave kicking off at the questionable (but very civilised) hour of 4pm. After downing a pint at my local (and bumping into three people I know while in my Doris get-up), we hop on the Victoria line to FIRE in Vauxhall, London: a multi-room club which hosts everything from student nights to Klub Verboten kink parties. After saying hello to Three Blind Mice in the queue, we are each given a green smudge on the wrist, ready to walk into what can only be described as fairytale chaos

The tunes 

Any seasoned raver will know that the DJ will make or break your night. In this case, it is very much made. We are greeted with the comforting, auto-tuned vocals of Soulja Boy’s ‘Kiss Me Thru the Phone’, before the lights go down and Shrek and Fiona blast on to the stage to the opening chords of the Princess’s bird song (if you know, you know). 

As Fiona reaches her highest note, green lasers shoot across the room and a sweat-drenched, onesie-wearing Donkey wobbles on, singing the opening chords of David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ (which any real fan will recognise as the tune played when Shrek transforms into his human self in ‘Shrek 2’). Large, inflatable Shreks look down on the smiling crowd, and the energy is pretty much immaculate. 

A person in a shrek costume
Photograph: Lyle Boenke

In the main room, these in-person performances (by actors from the cast of Shrek the Musical), are interspersed with cheesy pop throughout the evening. An MC occasionally jumps on, shouting things like ‘Farquaad’s in the house’, ‘It’s the Muffin Man!’ ‘What are you doing in my swaaaamp?’ and ‘Do the roar!’ The smaller second room is for the more hardcore ravers: fewer throwback tunes, more DnB mash-ups and throttling beats. There is truly something for everyone. 

The crowd

Time for a drink. We buy two Stellas and a ‘special’ Shrek cocktail, known as Swamp Juice, which costs £9 and tastes just like a glass of concentrated apple juice. A tall hairy man who looks like he might be on drugs asks for a photo with Doris. I allow it.

We move on to the smoking area, home to the cloakroom and a food truck selling fried chicken and plantain tacos. Weirdly, half of the area is cornered off to the general public, as though they are trying to pen in the fairytale creatures like at the beginning of ‘Shrek 1’. Someone points at me, gives me a second look, then shouts: ‘Doris! Is that you?’

Out here, we get the chance to speak to some fellow brogres. Nineteen-year-old Connor and 21-year-old Dan, both dressed as Shrek, have travelled to London from Ipswich, spending the night on a friend’s couch. ‘Shrek is God,’ Connor says. ‘I’m not a Christian, but I’m a believer.’ 

Another reveller has travelled from Bristol to meet friends from school (‘What better excuse?’), while Three Little Pigs – each with suggestive messages like ‘Blow me?’ painted on their backs – have come down from Cambridge after seeing the rave advertised on Facebook.

Three people with their backs turned
Photograph: India Lawrence

‘This is my pre-drinks,’ one Little Pig says. ‘I’m going on to a night out after, to [gay club] ROAST.’ He looks around. ‘The Shrek rave is way more straight than we anticipated, but there’s a small group of gays: I could maybe pull.’ 

We head to the girl’s loos and ask a Farquaad in the queue why they are here. ‘Intrigue,’ she says, sheepishly. Meanwhile, we can hear Captain Hook snorting something inside a cubicle. 

The layers 

After dancing our heart out and having Donkey squirt silly string into our mouth to ‘I’m a Believer’, we ask around about a Shrek afters, but can’t find one. Everyone in the smoking area is now sitting down, and we decide to call it a night.

On our way out, we ask the FIRE security guard what he thought of all the Shrek shenanigans. ‘I have no opinion,’ he says, before stalling, looking me in the eye and taking his hat off to reveal a shiny bald scalp. ‘But… some people say I look like Shrek. My first wife was called Fiona.’ 

He lets us out the back way and we cross the road to the Market Place Vauxhall, which is conveniently still open, offering just about every sort of street food you could imagine. Other exhausted Shrek ravers are also here: Big Bad Wolves slouched over kebabs, Prince Charmings rolling cigs, Donkeys and Dragons pairing off into one-night stands.

Just like onions (and ogres) the Shrek rave has layers

Scranning my prawn chow mein, India and I stare at each other in disbelief, knowing we’ll never be the same again. Just like onions – and ogres – the Shrek rave has layers. On one level, it’s a fun excuse to get silly and indulge in cringe and childhood nostalgia; a green-coloured two-fingers to pretentious clubbing. On another level, there is a deep-rooted sense of camaraderie and joy all night long. There’s a reason why Shrek is the cultural icon he is. He’s proof that there’s no harm in being yourself, no matter how disgusting that might be. 

‘Even as a certified Shrek fanatic – I know almost all of the words to “Shrek 2” – I was worried the Shrek rave might be a bit much for me,’ India says of the experience. ‘But when we walked in and saw Shrek, Fiona and Donkey grinning emphatically while performing a note-perfect rendition of “Changes” on the stage, I was ready to be proved wrong. It was like a hyped-up, neon-green fever dream on acid. Seeing Lord Farquaad, one of the Three Blind Mice and Captain Hook manically dancing to drum and bass while an MC shouted “Farquaad in the mix” in the background isn’t something I’m likely to forget any time soon. Images of a beefed-up Shrek thrusting over a kaleidoscopic animation that says “Shrek Is Love” will be burned into my brain for ever. It was ridiculous, chaotic and a lot of fun. I’d probably go again.’

And the best part for me, personally? I was home, my Doris make-up off, with my head on the pillow by 10.43pm – when I’d usually still be in the queue to get in the club. That’ll do, Donkey, that’ll do. 

Find out more about upcoming Shrek Raves here.

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