I am a huge fan of the 1994 movie and I was eager to see what a play could bring to the incredible story of Shawshank Redemption; the story of Andy Dufresne, an ex banker serving 2 life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, in Shawshank prison, though he never stops professing his innocence or stops hoping for the future through all that happens to him.
I don’t think I am alone in loving The Shawshank Redemption as the film is often voted one of the the best movies of all time. So, would the movie be a hard act to follow. How would they stage it? Would they use the same beautiful music score from the film written by Thomas Newman or come up with something new? Would they change the plot? What could a stage production bring to the story? The cast was small and they worked very hard to bring it to life. Red played by Ben Onwukwe was excellent in narrating on stage and his moments came with presence and strength. I was captured by him and he definitely made the role his own. Jay Marsh as Bogs was another strong performance, intimidating and powerful.
What holds the story together is the friendship between Red and Andy Dufresne, their bond and hope is the heart of this story and I felt, for me, it was lacking. By the second half I was not convinced of the relationship between them. The play had a fast pace to it as they tried to fit a lot of plot into a short time frame and a stillness was lacking to those moments between them that affected the overall feeling of the play and the friendship at its centre.
Jo Absolom worked hard to bring an Andy to the stage that was more frenetic and edgy to the Andy I am used to from legendary Tim Robbins. I did like his performance, though he didn’t stroll with an air of stillness, he brought something younger and energetic that I did appreciate.
My favourite moment though from Shawshank is my favourite moment of all time from a film. When Andy plays the sublime duet from the marriage of Figaro
‘I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words and makes your heart ache because of it.’
Frustratingly for me they chose to leave this song out of the play entirely. This moment speaks so much to the themes of hope and freedom of the mind and I sorely missed it. They chose to leave a lot of music out of the play. There were small scraps of 50’s pop songs in scene changes but nothing that made the soul sing or gave any enhancement to the performance. By the middle of the second act I ached for it. Longed for something more.
The play fitted a lot of plot into its short timeframe and a small cast brought all they had to some excellent roles that were not mimicked to the film but made them their own. I am unsure how I feel about the play as a whole. It’s hard to say when it is an adaptation of a movie I can confidently say I have seen over twenty times!
I enjoy the theatre and was hoping for something different but, apart from the stirling work from the actors, I don’t feel I saw anything new from the production.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.