REVIEW: The Shawshank Redemption, The Hawth Theatre

Paul Nicholls as Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. Picture by Mark Yeoman
Paul Nicholls as Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. Picture by Mark Yeoman

When a song, film or TV series is so well-loved, it’s always creates a reaction when it is remade.

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best-loved films of all time and now it has hit the stage.

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Of course, the film itself was remade from a short novel by Stephen King, and although not universally recognised on its cinema release, it soon became a staple in any film fan’s DVD collection and is considered a classic.

The stage version is now on at the Hawth Theatre, Crawley (until Saturday, October 15) and stars Paul Nicholls (EastEnders) as Andy Duffresne, Ben Onwukwe as Red and Jack Ellis (Bad Girls, Prime Suspect) as Warden Stammas.

The play has been adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns and is directed by David Esbjornson. It’s based on the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption,

Despite protests of his innocence, Andy Dufresne is handed a double life sentence for the murder of his wife and her lover. Incarcerated at the Shawshank facility, he quickly learns that no one can survive alone.

Andy strikes up an unlikely friendship with Red, the prison fixer, and things take a slight turn for the better. However, when Warden Stammas decides to bully Andy into subservience and exploit his talents for accountancy, a desperate plan is quietly hatched.

The story examines desperation, injustice, friendship and hope. And the 11-strong cast portray these emotions superbly.

Onwukwe injects humour and pathos into the role made legendary by Morgan Freeman, while Nichols is understated and cool as Duffresne. His scenes with Ellis as the stern Warden are tense and powerful.

But it’s not just the leads who shine.

Andrew Boyer as veteran Brooksie puts in a heart-breaking performance while Nicholas Banks gives an assured performance as the cocky but insecure Tommy Williams.

The production is enhanced by the atmosphere created by the clever set design, lighting and sound. It would only be more powerful if it was on a smaller stage and in a more intimate setting.

Everyone who sees this will inevitably compare this to the film. But they shouldn’t. This stands on it’s own and it reminded me what a brilliant, brutal, heart-breaking and ultimately joyous story this is. Now where’s my copy of the film....

The Shawkshank Redemption is on at The Hawth until Saturday, October 15.

The show is suitable for ages 14+, includes strong language.

Tickets: Mon-Thu: £29. Wed & Sat 2.30pm: £25, Fri & Sat 7.30pm: £31.Discounts: Mon-Thu eve: £3 off. Over 60s: Mon-Thu eve £4 off, 2.30pm shows: £2 off.Groups 10 or more: £5 off.

BSL Signed Performance Fri 14 October 7.30pm (Signer: Paul Michaels)Audio Described Performance Sat 15 October 2.30pm

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