We arrived early at the New Alexandra Theatre as we were keen to see the newly refurbished Piano Bar (and sample a glass or two of their excellent vino!) and I’m so glad we did. The whole feel of the bar has changed – it’s now much more sophisticated and relaxed – with elegant furnishings and muted lighting. The amount of seating has been reduced which makes the area seem larger and also means that there’s ample space to manoeuvre to and from the bar without having to weave in and out of tables and chairs. As we were early, there were plenty of tables free, so we sat down on a pair of plush, high-backed chairs to enjoy our wine and people-watch as everyone arrived. It was the perfect place to begin our night and it set the tone for a wonderful evening ahead.
I have been a fan of Stephen King’s writing since I was a teenager, and have watched some of his most brilliant and imaginative stories be adapted for the big screen over the years (with varying degrees of success!). Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was a short story from King’s 1982 collection, Different Seasons, which was made into the film, The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. The film was an instant hit and still remains today in a lot of people’s top ten films of all time.
This particular adaptation for the stage by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns goes back to the original novella for its source and so staunch fans of the film will undoubtedly see some differences. Much of what made the film so great, however, still resonates in this production and as a fan of both the book and the film, I was not disappointed.
One of the main characters, Red (Patrick Robinson), took on the role as narrator and helped the story move along steadily. He, in turn, introduced us to the other characters and filled us in on life in Shawshank Prison. Ian Kelsey’s portrayal of Andy Dufresne was both quiet and understated and eventually grew on me throughout the play. He exuded the calm and steadiness that the character is noted for and by the end I was rooting for Andy big style! The rest of the ensemble cast were all excellent too with special mentions for Joe Reisig as the vicious guard, Hadley, and Ian Barritt as the institutionalised, Brooksie, who really tugged on the heart-strings.
The use of lighting to hide the more brutal and upsetting aspects of the story was really clever and so was the use of sound to make us feel like there was a cast of a thousand prisoners in the back somewhere, hammering on their cell bars. The ending had a real poignancy and was beautifully styled, bringing with it a real feeling of justice served, and a tear to the eye.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable evening and a really excellent watch. Go see it. You won’t regret it.
The Shawshank Redemption runs until Saturday 3rd October and further details can be found here