Fans of crime drama will be in for a treat as The Regent theatre welcomes the epic Shawshank Redemption to Stoke-on-Trent – Review by Mel Osborne
Based on the 1994 hit film, inspired by a short novel by Stephen King, the show stars Joe Absolom as Andy and Ben Onwuke as Red. This stage adaptation of the original film is directed by David Esbjornson.
It is 1947 and banker Andy Dufresene is convicted of murdering his wife and lover. He is handed two life sentences and sent to Shawshank prison where he befriends fellow inmate – Red.
This is a play about friendships, hope and justice over a period of 19 years. Andy is wrongly convicted and struggles to accept his fate, however as time progresses he learns how to navigate the system of corrupt prison life to make it a touch more bearable for himself and his cellmates.
Set at Shawshank prison the stage is as grim as you would expect a notorious prison full of murderers would be. It is grey, grim and dimly lit, even the windows are dark. The mood is one of despair and hopelessness. For the prisoners the brightest part of the day is the small, limited library on wheels.
Although the plot is dark, the script is engaging and lively with many humorous interjections to lighten the mood.
This is needed as there are numerous harrowing scenes particularly when Andy finds himself at the hands of ‘The Sisters’ – a notorious prison gang.
Onwuke as Red articulately narrates Andy’s story and leaves the audience hanging on every word as he leads us through the tale of his treasured friendship. Joe Absolom gives an outstanding characterisation of Andy with his nuanced and restrained interpretation and shows how less is certainly more as a dramatic lead.
They are supported by a strong ensemble who act as fellow jail mates and guards. There are occasional moments when some of the fights are too restrained but otherwise the cast give very powerful performances.
This is most certainly a play not to miss out on. It translates well on to stage and it is worth noting – this is a show centred around narrative not action. It is about the lessons learnt even
when you are at the very bottom rung of life. It highlights corruption of a prison system, which
certainly prompt some interesting post show debates.
Shawshank redemption doesn’t fail to provide an excellent night out for theatre goers. It would be a cold-hearted person who doesn’t have a tear in their eye at the end. This was mirrored by the audience’s reaction as they took to their feet for a standing ovation. Despite it being nearly 30 years since this story hit the screens this is a tale that still packs a punch and is unlikely to ever age.
Shawshank Redemption is at The Regent Theatre, in Hanley until Saturday 25 February. More details can be found HERE
(Main image Jack Merriman)
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