ATN review: The Shawshank Redemption, The Wyndham’s Theatre Published, September 20, 2009
Reviewed by Sophia Jackson
Three nude males clutching their privates are used to grab your attention in the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The men are new inmates at ‘The Shank’ prison and so the story begins. We are then introduced to the two main characters Red, played by Reg E Cathey who ‘gets things’ anything you need to make life as a prisoner more bearable. However, an unusual request for a Rita Hayworth poster from fellow inmate, Andy, played by Kevin Andersen, sets them on a journey of friendship. They both embark on a personal discovery on the importance of hope and ultimately redemption.
The play has huge boots to fill what with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins playing the leads of the much-loved film version. But this production does a great job of evoking similar emotions that can be derived from the themes of the book – injustice and being treated fairly in life. It might be from the underlying threat of mass disdain if this adaptation in any way took away from the greatness of this quality film.
It’s a simple story. Andy is in prison for murdering his wife but like all inmates he claims he’s not guilty of the crime. He comes from a finance background and uses his skills from the outside, inside the prison and garners favours from inmates to prison wardens alike. This has its benefits. On one hand Andy’s financial expertise enables the prisoners to get rewards such as a beer, access to musical instruments, the expansion of the library and even movie nights but on the other hand it means that the wardens become so dependent on his services that it is to his detriment when it’s time for him to get a fair trial.
This injustice is too much for Andy and he devises a cunning plan that works in his favour and also his best friend, Red.
Some of the fellow inmates ‘the sisters’ don’t like the fact that Andy’s seen to be getting special treatment and use this as a bully tactic. On stage, punch ups and the gang rape scenes are all the more hard-hitting and it’s difficult not to wince at the brutality of this violation which comes hand in hand with being incarcerated in a prison institution.
Any die-hard fans who are sceptical on whether the play can deliver to the high standard set by the award-winning film; should go just to give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s not the same as the film but it’s good and like the film will remind you thathuman spirit is a powerful thing.