Liz Coggins reviews the stage play of the iconic film Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption has been adapted for the stage from Stephen King’s original story rather than the iconic 1994 award winning film.
Set in the Shawshank Penitentiary it’s a grim tale laced with brutality, injustice, gang rape and violence – yet so cleverly presented that these shocking moments don’t linger in the audience’s mind – they are soon forgotten as the next drama unfurls.
Director David Esbjornson uses lighting, simple ingenious set changes and vintage songs to lift, what otherwise would be a drab production, into a pacey, piece of believable theatre.
The story evolves around Andy Dufresne, serving a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank he learns he can’t survive alone and strikes up an unlikely friendship with prison fixer Red and things take a turn for the better. However when Warden Stammas decides to bully Andy into subservience and exploit his talents for accountancy a desperate plot is hatched.
Shawshank Redemption demands high quality acting and masterly characterization from its actors who hold the story together – and this is a cast that ticks all the boxes. The way they walk, talk move and their facial expressions say it all and when they kick off it looks like its for real.
Patrick Robinson as Red drives the show with an amazing characterization and a final monologue that moves the audience with its humour and touching sense of pathos.
As Andy Dufresne, Ian Kelsey is cool, yet determined with a steely attitude that heightens as the play progresses – oh how this actor has developed since he was Emmerdale’s favourite young piece of eye candy back in the 1990’s.
Both the inmates and warders get to grips with their roles superbly and behave as if they belong in the penitentiary. Particularly outstanding are Rico (Declan Perring), Rooster (Leigh Jones) and Owen Oldroyd as Entwistle the old man who doesn’t want to be free as he can’t handle life on the outside.
Even if the idea of going to see a play like The Shawshank Redemption does not appeal to you – then think again for any theatre lover it’s a must see and a fine example of top class acting.
Runs until 5th September.