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Hope Lives On....

The Shawshank Redemption, Belgrade Theatre from 6 – 11 March

Review by Heidi Barber

Although the 1994 feature film which was based on Stephen King’s short novel was not a huge success at the box office following its release, it was later nominated for seven Academy Awards and went on to become one of the nation’s favourite films and a huge source of inspiration to film makers, with The National Film Registry citing the film as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The original film starred Tim Robbins as banker Andy Dufresne who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. Morgan Freeman stars as a fellow prisoner, contraband smuggler Ellis "Red" Redding who befriends Andy and helps to make his time in the notorious prison more bearable.

This thrilling stage production stars Joe Absolom as Andy Dufresne with Ben Onwukwe as his inmate Ellis “Red” Redding and examines desperation, injustice, friendship and hope behind the claustrophobic bars of a maximum-security facility.

We first meet Andy and other new inmates as they are “cleaned” and prepped for their life behind bars in the Shawshank penitentiary. New prisoners are called “Fish” and the old hands bet on which of the new arrivals will break first; experienced jailbird, Red Redding (Ben Onwukwe) is convinced it will be Andy; little does he know the resilience lies within the quiet man.

As the play develops, Andy is constantly bothered by the aggressive and dangerous element of Shawshank called “The Sisters”. Despite horrendous things happening to him, Andy focuses his positivity into campaigning for the building of a library and then, as the years go by, to tutoring a young convict; a man who can possibly prove his innocence.

Throughout this time, his friendship with Red flourishes and a small rock hammer provided by Red proves to be instrumental in the final stages of the drama.

The iconic and highly acclaimed 1994 film is a hard act to follow but the bleak and foreboding set creates a suitably atmospheric backdrop for the tragedies which unfold whilst Andy, Red and the other prisoners are incarcerated at the dreaded Shawshank penitentiary.

With strong and convincing performances from all members of the cast, this production does an excellent job of conveying the key moments of the story of innocence, survival and above all, hope.


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