A What's Good To Do Review
The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short story by Stephen King and was made into a hit film in 1994 starring Morgan Freeman. We went to see the stage version at the world famous Blackpool Opera House, which has been adapted for the stage by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns and directed by David Esbjornson.
I always find it easier to find out the story before I see a play so Mark filled me in on the plot which is basically as follows. Andy Dufresne (Paul Nicholls) is given two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, he protests his innocence but is found guilty and sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary. Once inside he meets prison “fixer” Ellis "Red" Redding (Ben Onwukwe) who he befriends, Red helps him adjust to the brutal physical and mental ill treatment that is part of prison life. Sadistic and corrupt warden Stammas (Jack Ellis) wants to use Andy’s accountancy skills to help him launder prison money, which he goes along with to help make prison life bearable.
This often violent tale of hope against adversity is set inside a maximum security prison. Not only must Andy learn to survive the brutality of the prison guards but there is also the violence of fellow inmates to endure. The handling of the gang rape by the “sisters” was always going to be a tricky scene to portray but we felt it was very well handled and lost none of its impact.
With a very impressive set, you really felt you were in prison, the walls were shabby and the use of lighting was very effective at highlighting the claustrophobic feel of the prison.
This all male cast of 12 was very strong, unfortunately at times the sound was muffled and it was difficult to hear the dialogue though this did improve as the night went on. Whilst Red befriends Andy, Ben plays the role with a sharp edge, he is after all a triple murderer in a high security prison.
Paul Nicholls is excellent playing the role of the mild banker, never losing hope and patiently biding his time whilst Jack Ellis, who is more familar to me as prison officer Jim Fenner in Bad Girls, portrays the vile prison warden Stammas with ease.
Mark being a fan of the film wondered how the play would work on stage. Would the plot be over-simplified? How would the ending be portrayed?
He was actually impressed with how it was done and his only criticism being he felt Stammas comeuppance was glossed over a little too quickly. Not having seen the film I didn't notice this.
The final scene was a little awkward as the scenery seemed to stick but other than that the play was excellent and Mark felt the story had been adapted skilfully losing none of its original impact.
The Shawshank Redemption is playing at the Winter Gardens until Saturday 19th November so if you are close to Blackpool is is definitely worth a visit. We had a really good evening out as did the rest of the audience judging by the standing ovation at the end of the performance.