Touring – reviewed at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Guest reviewer: Sarah Miatt
The Shawshank Redemption, based on the Stephen King short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, is undoubtedly among the worlds favourite films. To even attempt to put a story so popular, with characters so well-loved on stage is an exceptionally brave move and could easily go very wrong.
In the safe hands of the close-knit cast this iconic story played out beautifully. The cast worked well together and the camaraderie between the inmates was both beautiful to watch and extremely natural. The horseplay between the men great, although the fight scenes seemed to lack pace, which had they not, would have made them just the right level of brutal.
Paul Nicholls gave an outstanding performance as the hero of the piece Andy Dufresne. He managed to get the perfect balance of bravado and cockiness with a sensitivity that at times was heartbreaking. Red, played by Ben Owukwe, was wonderful to watch, you completely took to him straight away almost as an old friend. His narration whilst occasionally difficult to hear in the large auditorium was extremely engaging and well performed.
Of the other performances, Jack Ellis as Warden Stammas and Daniel Stewart as Hadley were suitably detestable as the villains of the piece, whilst Andrew Boyer as prison veteran Brooksie was heart-rending and hilarious in equal measure. Nicholas Banks as new entrant Tommy Williams was enthusiastic and wonderfully naive. The relationship that developed with his mentor (Nicholls) was heartwarming to watch.
Each piece of set change music not only fitted the time set, but also showed what had happened in the scene, to absolute perfection, brilliantly chosen. The underscore of the noise of prison life throughout was really effective and easily made you feel as if you were in prison with them.
The set was ingenious and exactly fitting. Coupled with the lighting it cast just the right feeling of the despair and misery felt by the inmates whilst in contrast, with just the additional one wall, the wardens office appeared opulent and comfortable.
Overall, this attempt to put one of the worlds favourite films on stage is a huge success. They make it completely their own and it works. Well worth going to watch, whilst at the Mayflower or when it arrives in a town near you.