7-12 September 2015
Reviewed by Ellie Hanks
Last night we visited Theatre Royal in Brighton, to see The Shawshank Redemption, a play based on the original short novel by Stephen King and original movie starring Morgan Freeman.
The stage was set out to look like a 1950s prison and I have to say, I was very impressed with its overall look. The set screamed professional and belonged on a West End stage, really impressive. Both lighting and dry ice completed the look and oppressive feel of a gloomy, rat infested penitentiary and you really felt ‘in it’ with the cast.
The theatre itself is an early 1800s, columned masterpiece and a beauty to behold. The staff were quick to call the audience to their seats however I felt they could have been more accommodating to me on arrival – first they couldn’t find my tickets in the box office and then they gave me someone else’s. Not a great start.
The show opens with Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Casualty’s Patrick Robinson) giving us a short run down of the penitentiary and the reasons why his soon to be friend Andy Dufresne (Emmerdale’s Ian Kelsey) has been given two life sentences. Andy insists he is innocent and didn’t murder his wife and her lover and Red is sceptical at first. Red introduces himself as the ‘man that can’ so to speak and invites Andy to request anything he desires. The only thing Andy desires is a small pick axe of which he claims he intends to sculpt rocks with. Red refuses at first but then relents as they become friends. The story unfolds and Andy meets his match with a couple of prisoners that don’t like his seeming arrogance and he is constantly at loggerheads with Warden Stammas and the Prison Officers, whilst trying to keep his head down and do his time.
It’s whilst he is at loggerheads with the prison staff that Owen O’Neill in the role of Warden Stammas truly shines. Both Kelsey and O’Neill have an on stage chemistry where they bounced off each other remarkably well and Kelsey’s best scenes and performances came from his scenes with O’Neill. O’Neill comes up smelling of roses though, despite his nasty character’s eventual comeuppance, as his portrayal of the bent Prison Warden really does steal the show. An accent and dialect straight from the movie itself and some scene stealing acting meant O’Neill was the name firmly on the minds of the audience long after the show had ended.
Robinson shines throughout as Red, a tough role with big shoes to fill in the wake of Morgan Freeman’s 1994 Oscar nominated performance. He does him proud however, and is a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Kelsey’s Andy Dufresne is also immensely watchable if at times quite static.
The rest of the cast do an excellent job of bringing what is a fantastic, now classic story to life on stage and overall The Shawshank Redemption is a thoroughly enjoyable night out. Professional, slick and a cast that seems to truly believe in a cracking story, it made this show an immensely likeable drama that never loses pace.
An excellent drama, full of suspense and energy.
Tickets cost from £12.90 to £37.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The Shawshank Redemption is at the Theatre Royal in Brighton until 12 September 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7650.
Theatre Royal. New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1SD | 0844 871 7650