Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen


The Shawshank Redemption

Review by: Paul Towers, 03 October 2016
The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, Owen Neill & Dave Johns
A Bill Kenwright Production
Curve, 3rd – 8th October 2016

“a powerful production.”

First off, I have to admit I have never seen the film that this play is based on so I have gone into this with no preconceptions and a completely open mind. All I knew was that it was set in a prison.
The curtain rises to three naked men standing with only a small package of their personal effects to cover their vulnerability. These are new prisoners, fresh meat for the predatory older lags. The set is a suitably industrial looking combination of steel girders and iron plates serving as the various prison interiors. This is Shawshank, an American penitentiary in the late 1960’s, a violent, dog-eat-dog environment into which is thrust Andy Dufresne, wrongly convicted of  the murder of his wife and her boyfriend.
This is not a play for the easily offended as the first 20 minutes include no end of profanity, violence and male rape. Add into this mix the inherently corrupt prison officers and it is easy to see how the entire community verges on the precipice of turning feral at any moment.
The three main roles are Andy Dufresne, played by Paul Nicholls, Warden Stammas, played by Jack Ellis and Ellis ‘Red’ Redding, played by Ben Onwukwe. These are the characters who tell the story and should be strongly cast for the pivotal roles they play. As this production is without the benefit of personal amplification it is incredibly important that the actors can project and enunciate so that even the gallery can hear them.
In this case it was abundantly obvious that Messrs Ellis and Onwukwe were trained stage actors. Paul Nicholls is not. In many instances his mumbling, probably a habit picked up from his days as a TV actor, meant much of his dialogue was missed by anyone not in the front two rows. Fortunately much of his character’s role is to be the calm at the centre of the storm as the drama unfolds around him.
However, that aside, this is a powerful production of a damning indictment of the American prison system at the time.
While this sounds as though it is unremittingly downbeat there are plenty of little laughs inserted to lift the mood, as is to be expected when you realise the adaptors, Owen Neill and Dave Johns are both stand up comedians.
The Shawshank Redemption runs at Curve until Sat 8th October and then continues on tour until the end of the year
First published on Western Gazette

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