Fringe Preview: Shawshank Redemption

Ian Lavender in The Shawshank Redemption. Picture: Comp
Ian Lavender in The Shawshank Redemption. Picture: Comp
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‘YOU Stupid boy...’ Ian Lavender has probably forgotten the number of times Captain Mainwaring called him that in Dads’ Army. Hardly surprising, the last episode of the legendary BBC sit-com was filmed in 1977.

Now 67 years young, Lavender was just 22 when he landed the role of Private Pike, the gormless, schoolboy member of Walmington On Sea’s Home Guard unit.

Ian Lavender. Picture: PA

Ian Lavender. Picture: PA

Today, the actor is the last surviving member of the series’ regular cast. Looking back, his fondness for the role remains undiminished.

“I don’t understand why some people resent the roles they’re best known for; why should you be unhappy with something you are proud of doing, that you loved, and that has ensured you’ve made a living for the past 40 years?”

He chuckles, “You’ve got to be realistic about it.”

Lavender, who is making his Fringe debut in The Shawshank Redemption at the Assembly Rooms, reflects that for a young actor, being surrounded by comedic greats such as Arthur Lowe was a great education.

“It was like going to a summer school every year. Wonderful in all respects; business-wise, social-wise; people-wise. To have that ten weeks of each year was quite extraordinary. When the time came to say goodbye to it, although we weren’t happy, we knew that its life-span had come to an end. It was time to say bye bye, and yet, here we are, 40 years later and I still haven’t said good bye to it.”

The popularity of the series amazes him, he admits.

“We got to know it was special in people hearts as we made it, but I never expected that it would still be around today. People watching it in 40 years time... don’t be silly.”

Based on Stephen King classic prison novel, The Shawshank Redemption is another of Lavender’s loves - the reason he agreed to play Brooksie in the Fringe production.

“I love both the book and the film. For this, they’ve gone back to the original things that happened to people, as opposed to what they developed in the movie.

“So, you’re not coming to see the film, but maybe that is why such a lot of people have come along.

“The staging is raw, almost basic, yet we see people at the end standing and clapping with tears rolling down their cheeks. It’s just amazing.”

The Shawshank Redemption, Assembly Rooms, George Street, until 25 August (not 12), 4.50pm, £16, 0131-226 0000