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Classic prison drama film The Shawshank Redemption gets busy living in Leicester

By midlandsmovies, Oct 4 2016 08:41AM

On the 22nd anniversary of the nation’s favourite movie comes this new stage adaptation of the classic film The Shawshank Redemption at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, itself a re-working of Stephen King’s novella.


This new production uses the 1994 movie, which has been often voted Britain’s favourite ever movie, as a jumping off point to look at themes of optimism, friendship and trust.


The original film starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and was nominated for seven Oscars and this version takes some of the ideas from the film (Red not being an Irishman) but mixes in much more from the short story too.


Ex-Eastender Paul Nicholls plays Andy Dufresne who despite protests of his innocence, is convicted of the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. Nichols takes the character in a different direction to the understated style of Robbins by infusing Andy with a simmering rage. In this version I really believed that Andy could have even been the murderer. It was an interesting twist but may upset those in love with the original movie.


Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank facility, Andy quickly learns however that no one can survive on their own and forms a friendship with Ellis ‘Red’ Redding played brilliantly by Ben Onwukwe. Again, influenced but not bound by Freeman’s iconic take, the actor gives a more sarcastic tone to his performance which contrasted with Nichols’ role.


However, the overall tone throughout was unfortunately one of the weaker parts. With the movie loved the world over, there’s a general upbeat glow on screen (despite the some of the prison horrors) whereas this interpretation went to the extremes – with much more violence and swearing but also an increase in comedy. This would be fine in certain sections but stuck out in others. A scene where librarian Brooksie cannot face life on the outside and threatens to set fire to himself had unfortunate lines of awkward dialogue to ‘lighten’ the mood but felt misplaced and lessened the drama.


That said, this production by producer Bill Kenwright had spectacular stage design with spotlights, flashlights and subtle colour changes in scenes to show the heightened emotions of the inmates and their fractured relationships with the guards and each other.


Special mention should also go to Jack Ellis’ pitch perfect Warden Stammas who, for a film fan like myself, channelled the cinematic version flawlessly. As the character exploits Andy’s accountancy skills, Ellis’ nasty evangelist torments the prisoners with bible passages and remonstrations. Ellis snakes his way through a superb performance of unpleasantness in a classic villain role he’s echoed from the film.


This stage adaptation is by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns and directed by David Esbjornson and together they have produced a show that’s overall more surprising than striking. Fans of both the book and film will find good things in the adaptation but if you prefer one over the other then the criss-crossing of styles may irk the respective audiences.


However, this is a new interpretation and being “faithful” to another media is not equal to quality and with a cast of dramatic actors bringing new things to a well-worn tale, the stage production gives fresh life to the story. The Shawshank Redemption then is an impressive show which has enough of the old and the new that you won’t want to escape the auditorium during its marvellous set pieces and exciting reworking of hope in the face of adversity.


Midlands Movies Mike


The Shawshank Redemption is on at The Curve in Leicester from Monday 3rd October to Saturday 8th October as well as further dates around the UK.


Performance times:

Mon 3 Oct 7:30pm

Tue 4 Oct 7:30pm

Wed 5 Oct 2:15pm & 7:30pm

Thu 6 Oct 7:30pm

Fri 7 Oct 7:30pm

Sat 8 Oct 2:15pm & 7:30pm


£32.50 – £14.50 - Book tickets: http://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/shawshank-redemption



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