This amazing play based on the Book by Stephen King comes to Milton Keynes this week.
Its 1947 and Andy has been convicted of murder and is sentenced to life at Shawshank State prison. He is befriended by Red, a lifer who is good at getting people what they want. A few years later, Andy overhears the captain of the guards, complaining about being taxed on an inheritance and offers to help him shelter the money legally. After an assault that nearly kills Andy, Warden Stammas reassigns Andy to the prison library to assist Brooksie, as a front to use Andy to manage the warden’s own finances.
Years pass slowly. Tommy comes to Shawshank in the mid 1960s and Andy helps him pass his GED exam. Tommy reveals to Andy that his cellmate at another prison had claimed responsibility for the murders for which Andy was convicted. Andy approaches the Warden with this information, but Stammas doesn’t want to let his financial expert go.
If you need a show that shows overcoming adversity, this is it. The show sets are bare and minimal (as a prison set should be) and without any glitz or glamour that many musicals rely on, this play is so powerful and relies purely on the talent of the actors. And boy oh boy are these actors talented. Andy is played by Joe Absolom and he is outstanding in the role. He gives shy Andy a grit and determination that you know Andy has a plan to survive. Red is played by Ben Onwukwe and is exceptional actor. His portrayal of Red is authentic, believable and we really warm to Red, possibly more than we do to Andy. Red is partly narrating the story for us and we follow him on his journey. And when I think about it, we assume initially this is a story about Andy, but actually, I think it is equally a story about Red.
The Warden is played by Mark Heenehan and he is excellent in the role. Calm, and on the surface looking quite reasonable until you dig a bit deeper. Mark does an excellent job of delivering a complex character, that we grow to dislike. All the cast were excellent and equally brilliant in their roles, giving each character in the show their own personality.
This play is a must see – the quality of acting is phenomenal and unparalleled in my opinion.
As the play says: Get busy living or get busy dying – so get busy living and come see this remarkable show.
The Shawshank Redemption is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 22 October.