Naomi MacKay watched The Shawshank Redemption at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. On until Saturday 8 April.
Doing a stage production of a popular film is always a risky business – and when you take on a modern classic like the Shawshank Redemption, based on a story by Stephen King, and which was nominated for seven academy awards and starred movie giants Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, you’re really setting yourself a challenge.
But this stage adaptation of the story of Andy Dufresne, who is incarcerated in Shawshank Penitentiary, certainly redeems itself.
Joe Absolom (much loved as Al Large in Doc Martin) plays Andy, who is in jail for killing his wife and her lover.
Recognising that to survive prison, he will need to make some useful friends, he pals up with prison ‘fixer’ Red, played by Ben Onwukwe (London’s Burning), in a somewhat unlikely partnership.
But while Andy uses his intelligence to manipulate the prison authorities and help some of his fellow inmates, he becomes a target for Warden Stammas (brilliantly and coldly played by Mark Heenehan), and the jailbird pair come up with a thrilling plan for life after incarceration.
It’s a dark story, that’s for sure – and abuse, violence and despair weave through the play – but surprisingly they manage to add some humour too. The first half is dark and brutal, and a little slow as the scene is set for the story to follow – the second half certainly picks up the pace, including as it does the introduction of new young inmate Tommy Williams, who is the catalyst for what happens next.
If you’ve seen the film, you’ll find the story is followed quite closely, although possibly doesn’t quite manage to evoke the same emotion. And if the story is new to you – go along to find out just how powerful theatre can be.