The Shawshank Redemption at The Lowry

Monday evening saw bucketfuls of rain in Salford but more importantly, press night of The Shawshank Redemption at The Lowry Theatre…

Produced by Bill Kenwright and starring Joe Absolom and Ben Onwukwe, the title will score high recognition points, I’m sure, but not necessarily in this medium.

Whilst starting life as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, a short novel written in 1982, the 1994 film adaptation starring Tim Robbins is a firm fan favourite.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of either…

Despite protests of his innocence, Andy Dufresne is handed a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank facility, he quickly learns that no-one can survive alone. Andy strikes up an unlikely friendship with the prison fixer Red, and things take a slight turn for the better. However, when Warden Stammas decides to bully Andy into subservience and exploits his talents for accountancy, a desperate plan is quietly hatched…The play examines desperation, injustice, and hope…

Part of the huge film following, I have to admit I haven’t read the book, despite Stephen King being a huge part of my teen literary years.

And so whilst there were slight differences between the film and the play in terms of story and scenes, I can’t tell you whether that was a stylistic choice based on the different mediums, or whether it was a play of the book rather than a play of the film.

It honestly doesn’t matter and, regardless of which, this production manages to bring every bit of magic to the story that the film does.

Who could forget Morgan Freeman’s iconic narration as character Red? Well quite honestly me on Monday night, as Ben Onwukwe made it his own.

Credit:The Lowry

With the action around him frozen, and taking centre stage to address the audience directly, we were taken along with him as we met Andy Dufresne, the inmates and guards and travelled through the decades as the play came to its satisfactory and moving conclusion.

Joe Absolom gave a performance we’ve come to expect; measured yet vulnerable, steady yet passionate, it was faithful to the complicated ‘hero’ of our story so many of us feel like we know

Indeed all cast made the parts their own and each drew us individually into characters, and situations, which were familiar but given new life.

The sets were simple and enough, the quick changes taking you where you needed to be, the lighting and music playing their part in adding context, placement and, indeed, dramatic undertones and setting the mood perfectly.

I always get nervous (dramatic) when stepping into a different adaptation or medium of a narrative I love, for fear of my own unfair comparison or disappointment.

No need here. The standing ovation said it all.

On at The Lowry until this Saturday 5 November, don’t miss your chance to see for yourself.

The play has been adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns, and directed by David Esbjornson.

To book tickets and read more, visit The Lowry website

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