In 1995 the film adaptation of Stephen King's little known novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
To adapt THAT story again, this time into a stage play, would seem on paper at least to be a pretty thankless task. After all - there is already a pretty definite, admired and much loved version sitting in most people's DVD collection. In short if you are going to take another swing at this story... you need to do it RIGHT.
So how does this new adaption of The hankfully pretty well by all accounts!
In truth this is pretty much everything you'd want from a theatrical adaptation of this classic story and probably a bit more - an often brutal, often uplifting emotional rollercoaster with excellent staging, a host of powerful performances and a run time that allows the story to never outstay it's welcome.
Whilst the whole cast were excellent, special credit must go to Ben Onwukwe who manages to make the central role of 'Red' his own - no mean feat considering the iconic performance by Morgan Freeman previously. Onwukwe is charming & funny but with the right level of darkness that would befit a murderer. You buy his steady redemption wholeheartedly and, even if you do know how the story plays out, will him on his journey to freedom.
It's not easy taking on a task like this and in fact other attempts at adapting this story to stage haven't always been successful. But whether it's the staging, cast or just the affectionate nods to the source materials (or maybe a combination of all three) director Esbjornson delivers a real must see production.
In fact watching it at my favourite Eastbourne venue (The Devonshire Park Theatre) on the last night of it's current local run, I don't think I was the only one who enjoyed it - a standing ovation greeted the final curtain and comments on exiting were overwhelming positive. The is a hit and for those of you who didn't get to see it this time around don't make the same mistake should it visit Sussex again!
Starring Joe Absolom, Ben Onwukwe, Mark Heenehan, Kenneth Jay, Coulter Dittman, Joe Reisig Directed by David Esbjornson Design by Gary McCann Lighting Design by Chris Davey
The Shawshank Redemption is now touring across the UK.