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Review | Shawshank Redemption | Regent Theatre Stoke | 20/02/2023

The Shawshank Redemption follows the story of Andy Dufresne (Joe Absolom) who has been falsely accused of the double murder of his wife and her lover. However, behind the corrupt gates of Shawshank your past life doesn’t matter in the dog-eat-dog environment where it is every man for himself. Based on the Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, this story is perhaps more widely known from the 1994 cult classic film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.

The show starts powerfully with three naked men stood on stage, with only a box of belongings hiding their modesty. This powerful image quickly and cleverly sets the scene in a world where your belongings, status and past no longer count for much. From here we meet the various prisoners Dufresne crosses paths with as the story develops.

This is not a show short of trigger warnings, and in places is powerful. I, along with others on my row, squirmed in my seat at the scenes of sexual violence which were effectively staged for appropriate reaction. The fight scenes however could have been more believably choreographed, which would have helped give greater impact, depth and believable.

The simple stage design alongside its lighting worked well to represent a dingey prison. Using simple set pieces to denote location changes were much more successful than a more elaborate set could ever have been. It really helped deliver the grittiness of the piece.

Kenneth Jay gives the strongest performance of the night, as the lovably tragic Brooksie. His heartbreaking portrayal really tugs at your heartstrings. Sadly, not all of the performances are as solid or authentic, which resulted in the play having less heart than perhaps it could have. Ben Onwukne’s performance of Ellis “Red” Redding however does not however suffer this. He successfully achieves the impossible and follows in Morgan Freemans iconic footsteps with his cool yet confident performance.

Fans of the famous film will no doubt enjoy seeing the story being told on stage. It does help however to somewhat know the story to fully understand how certain things happen. Scenes which should have massive impact don’t always deliver as powerfully as you would hope. The moments that do work, such as the closing monologue from Red are excellent. Although it may not have been quite as powerful as anticipated, it still serves as an enjoyable night out for fans of the film.

'Shawshank Redemption' is on at the stunning Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until 25 February 2023 before continuing its UK tour. Full booking info below:

Photo Credit: Jack Merriman

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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