The Shawshank Redemption | Theatre REVIEW

Last night I attended the press night of The Shawshank Redemption at Crawley’s The Hawth Theatre (Parkwood Theatres) where it stays until Saturday 15th October 2016.

Based on the short novel (Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption) by Stephen King which was released back in 1982, the story went on to become a multi award nominated film in 1994 staring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. The film is often described as Britain’s favourite ever movie!

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“It’s a story of injustice, desperation, friendship and hope – behind the claustrophobic bars of a maximum security facility called Shawshank”

Andy Dufresne (Paul Nicholls) is serving time at the notorious Shawshank facility due to the double life sentence handed to him for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. Protesting his innocence he soon discovers that surviving alone at Shawshank is not going to happen.

Dufresne soon becomes friends with Red (Ben Onwukwe) the fixer at Shawshank, anything you need Red can get for you! But as things start to look up for Andy, Warden Stammas (Jack Ellis) learns of his accountancy skills and exploits him for all he’s worth. But in a state of desperation a plan is quietly being hatched . . .

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Paul Nicholls best known for his roles as Joe Wicks in BBC’s EastEnders, and as DS Sam Casey in ITV’s Law & Order: UK is absolutely sensational as Andy Dufresne. I have always been a fan of Nicholls and his films, in particular Goodbye Charlie Bright so was excited to see how he would perform on stage.

Shawshank is quite a dark story and covers topics such a gang rape and suicide so my hat goes off to Nicholls and all the cast for giving such a gritty, true performances and for not holding back.

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The staging was fantastic, it really did look like an authentic american penitentiary and the scene changes were effortless and backed to music which I really liked as it took the focus off the moving stage. The planning and skill that must go in to creating the stage’s for theatre shows is beyond me! It’s like a transformer and things just seen to pop up from everywhere!

Jack Ellis who everyone must recognise as Jim Fenner from ITV’s Bad Girls plays the role of Warden Stammas, the hard talking boss of Shawshank. Ellis’s performance was great, and after around 5 minutes I managed to remove all remnants of Jim Fenner and focus on the character he was playing!

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Everybody loved Morgan Freeman as Red the joke cracking narrator in the film, so the stage adaption was going to be a hard role to fill but Ben Onwukwe nailed it! Often sounding very similar to Freeman, as the narrator and story teller Onwukwe’s portrayal of Red was superb!

The whole cast are excellent in their own way, the ‘Sisters’ who are the bullies of Shawshank were very unlikable which is what they set out to do! And the latino obsessed with Lady Chatterley’s Lover had the audience laughing!

If you’re a fan of the film, or even if you haven’t seen the film I would highly suggest you catch The Shawshank Redemption while its touring the UK. A great story by great actors. Adapted by Owen O’Neill & Dave Johns and Directed by David Esbjornson.

The Shawshank Redemption is at The Hawth, Crawley until Saturday 15th October with shows every evening at 7:30pm and matinees on Weds 12th & Sat 15th at 2.30pm. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

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