Following in the footsteps of one of the greatest films of all time, it’s never going to be an easy feat to adapt The Shawshank Redemption to stage without comparisons.
The production, running at the Opera House, features a star-studded cast and an essential plot which runs true to Stephen King’s original novel.
Adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns and directed by David Esbjornson, the play – like the film before it – examines injustice, desperation, unlikely friendships and hope behind prison bars.
Paul Nicholls – best known for his role as heart-throb Joe Wicks in Eastenders – takes the lead role as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly incarcerated in ‘The Shank’ for murdering his wife and her lover.
He gave a composed performance but lacked the gravitas which Tim Robbins brought to the character in the 1994 feature film and seemed weak in comparison to his stronger colleagues.
Jack Ellis was well cast as Warden Stammas, who abuses Andy’s accountancy skills for his own ends, while Ben Onwukwe played a feisty Red, the prison fixer.
The Sisters – who carried out perverse sexual torment upon Andy – gave a chilling performance.
For anyone familiar to the tale, the gang rape scene would have come as no surprise and the play handled these darker moments well.
As for those who weren’t prepared for the sinister aspects to the play or the strong language throughout, it really didn’t warrant a walk out by a few audience members.
The first half was slow paced and difficult to follow at times, with background prison noise too much of a distraction.
But Nicholas Banks, who played Tommy Williams – a loyal friend to Andy who held the secret to his freedom and was willing to testify to that end – brought some much needed energy to the second half.
A special mention should go to the impressive lighting and excellent set which echoes that of the film.
The play runs until Saturday so go judge it for yourself...