City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Shawshank Redemption Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 26 August 2013

Omid Djalili (Red) and Kyle Secor (Andy) in the Shawshank Redemption
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Assembly Rooms
Shawshank Redemption / The Assembly Rooms
Running time: 
Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns (writers - after novella by Stephen King), Lucy Pitman-Wallace (director), Gary McCann (stage and costume designer), Kevin Treacy (lighting designer).
Kyle Secor (Andy), Omid Djalili (Red), Ian Lavender (Brooksie) Owen O’Neill (Stammas), Steve McNicholl (Hadley), Vincenzo Nicoli (Bogs), Terry Alderton (Rooster), Dave Johns (Entwhistle), Joe Rooney ((Rico), Jack Monaghan (Tommy)

Perhaps the audience members filing into the Assembly Rooms felt they were going to be treated unjustly. Certainly the competitive queue-jumping for this blockbuster production had all the makings of a prison riot.

Expectations were clearly high for this stage production; perhaps understandably when the film version (itself based on Stephen King’s novella) is cited as the number one favourite movie of all time. 

The story of hope, endurance and friendship set within a high security prison will be familiar to many. Former banker Andy Dufresne has been imprisoned after being found guilty of the double murder of his wife and her lover. His proclaimed innocence is something the other inmates can identify with - in Shawshank no one is guilty.

This extends to the blind-eye turned to the violence that permeates the halls, perpetrated by the guards and between the prisoners. Andy will need something special to survive; brains, the trust of others and a few items from prison “fixer”, Red. Moving through the system he devotes himself to improving the library, which houses books so ancient that the pages are taped in place - not necessarily in the right place. Perhaps it’s possible to change endings. The prisoner governor shares a financial interest in making changes to books and Andy’s knowledge soon makes him indispensable to his corrupt schemes.

Over decades, through his honesty and integrity Andy carves himself out a space within the oppressive regime, but there is always a higher dream - freedom.

This is a solid, workmanlike retelling of the story which, despite small changes, will be recognisable and won’t alienate fans of the film. The performances are generally strong, particularly in investing the characters of Andy with a sense of separateness, Red with a wise-guy flare and the Governor with a clipped and calculated immorality.

Where it’s less successful is in capturing a sense of time, either in period feel or in its passing, and place - the set and lighting have more than a hint of Shawshank The Musical. It doesn’t fully develop the central friendship of Andy and Red and also pulls it’s punches in terms of the violence, which the film almost overplayed in effective contrast with moments of gentle poise.

This is, quite rightly, not the film, it’s a theatrical experience in its own right but after a near twenty years stretch there might have been the opportunity, the freedom to break out and do something with more life. Then again, over a million film fans can’t be wrong.

Show times

1 to 25 (not 12) August 2013, 4.50pm

Ticket prices

£15 (£11) to £16 (£12)