Review: 3*** Shawkshank Redemption @Marlowetheatre@nicholls_paul

#tweetingit –3*** A hard-hitting production of the famous film of the same name complete with solid acting and well-designed set

So, let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. In 1999, little 13 year old me was getting ready for the start of school by decorating her folders and school books. She pulled two pictures from a magazine and stuck them into her music folder. imagesOne was Adam Ricketts, one was Paul Nicholls – who at the time was in Eastenders. Underneath (don’t judge me I was 13) I write “hot and sexy.” So, 17 years later, you can imagine my 13 year old self getting a touch over excited when the opening scene of Shawkshank Redemption included Paul Nichols on stage, naked. *swoon*

Anyhoo – if I could leave it at that and say go and see it to fulfil your teenage fantasies, then I would, but I should probably talk about the staging, acting and script just a bit…

Shawshank redemption – adapted from Stephen King’s novella but probably better known for the 1994 film, staring Morgon Freeman and Tim Robbins tells the story of Andy Dufresne , a successful banker who is wrongly-incarcerated for the violent murder of his wife and her lover. He is sent to the infamous Shawshank prison. After many months of trying to cope alone, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with another inmate, Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Ben Onwukwe), a man can get things, smuggling almost anything the inmates want into the prison – giving Andy the perfect way for him to hatch a plan to escape. In order to gain trust from the Warden  (Jack Ellis) Andy exploits his abilities as a banker/accountant to “cook the prison’s books” and curry favour with the other prison guards by doing their tax returns and get what he wants.

Directed by David Esbjornson, this production is closer to the novella than the film, although it does take some influences from it. At times, the scene changes and general pace of the play seems a little stilted but did pick up slightly in the second half.

The acting was top notch, however. Andrew Boyer’s played veteran inmate Brooksi, perfectly,  although the script did not allow for the same development of his character that is seen in the film, while Jeffs Alexander and Sean Croke made for intimidating and unsettling Bogs and Rooster respectively. 2eca119a9-b9b7-fc37-e211bcabd3581948I had mild concern about not being able to hear someone else but Morgan Freeman saying Red’s lines, but Ben Onwukwe brought a new dimension to the character as Jack Ellis as Warden Stammas certainly brought a sense of authority and fear to the stage. Paul Nicholls portrays the quiet and considered AndyDufresne perfectly, transitioning seamlessly between the character’s charming and likable side and more calculating, assertive and bold sides

The set was relatively simple but certainly did the job of showing the claustrophobia of prison. My only criticism of the set was the seriously cheesy sunset ending with Andy Dufresne stood in full power stance as Red walks towards him which very much took away from the emotional, uplifting ending I was hoping for.

It cannot be easy to bring to stage something which is so well known. I know it is unfair of me to compare it to the film but I imagine everyone who has seen the the film will do the same thing. Despite my comparisons, this was a good production, the cast bringing new life to familiar roles, and is worth going to see.

One word of warning, this is not suitable for children. I saw someone whipping her young child from the audience halfway through the first half – I have no idea what she thought the show was, but it is not something you want anyone younger than about 13 to see (the film was giving an R rating in America and . There are particularly graphic description of a violent sexual act as well as a rape scene – which I have to say were both done with great bravery and little shyness about broaching the subject of rape in prisons.

Book: Stephen King

Director: David Esbjornson

Set and Costume: Gary McCann

Sound: Dan Samson

Running at the Marlowe until 17th September and then on tour until 10 December 2016

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Rhiannon Lawson | Senior Cyber Security Analyst | Cyber Security & Incident Response

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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