The Shawshank Redemption at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review

The Shawshank Redemption at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review


Posted 2022-11-08 by Andy Colemanfollow

Mon 07 Nov 2022 - Sat 12 Nov 2022

Welcome to Shawshank Maximum Security Penitentiary, a penal institution filled with murderers, thieves and robbers, alongside sadistic guards and a scheming self-serving warden. It's not the place for an innocent man – as convicted killer Andy Dufresne claims to be.

Andy, played by Doc Martin and Eastenders favourite Joe Absolom , is serving two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover. Before prison he was a banker and is something of a financial wizard, a quality Warden Stammas (played in a suitably oily way by Mark Heenehan) realises he can use to line his own pockets. He is aided by brutal guard Hadley, a role Joe Reisig seems to have been born to play!

At the beginning of The Shawshank Redemption , we are told that for the first year of his incarceration Andy spoke to no one, but he then strikes up a friendship with fellow inmate, the prison's Mr Fixer, Ellis 'Red' Redding ( Ben Onwukwe ). In this stage version of the Stephen King story (and the 1994 film) Red acts as narrator, guiding the audience through the 20-year period the tales spans. Channelling his inner Morgan Freeman (who was Red in the movie) Onwukwe, recently seen in TV's Professor T, makes the role his own, gaining empathy from the audience and, eventually, getting them to root for him. He works well with Absolom, who is quieter and more introverted – although the big twist at the end reveals that all is not as we were led to believe.

We don't get to know as much about some of the other characters, perhaps because the scenes change rapidly as the two-hour play gallops through the 20-years. We sympathise with elderly librarian Brooksie (Kenneth Jay) who dreads being paroled after more than 40-years in jail, and there is instant dislike for inmate bullies Bogs Diamond (Leigh Jones) and Rooster (Samarge Hamilton). Jules Brown as Rico provides some much-needed humour, especially when he discovers the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, which balances the trauma we feel at what happens to young inmate Tommy Williams (played by Coulter Dittman, who made his TV debut in the recent second series of The Capture).

The lighting helps give another dimension to the sparse stage, and the incidental music (including short bursts of tracks by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan) gives some idea how time is moving on, from the 1940s to the 1960s.

It's a cracking story – which you would expect from Stephen King – and Owen O'Neill and Dave Johns, who adapted it for the stage, have tried to stay true to the spirit of the original. They don't always succeed but there are more than enough redeeming features to make it worth a night out. It's at The Alexandra in Birmingham until Saturday, November 12.

Rating: & #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9733

#theatre -reviews
!date 07/11/2022 -- 12/11/2022
70799 - 2023-01-26 01:49:28


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