STEPHEN King’s novella had readers transfixed when first published in 1982.
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In 1994, the Hollywood movie had audiences flocking to the cinema. Bill Kenwright’s 2015 stage production on the other hand, while good, isn’t a patch on its literary and silver-screen cousins.
A prison melodrama that centres on the incarceration of Andy Dufresne (a banker serving two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite protestations of innocence), it isn’t long before Andy’s utilising his educated skills to make prison life that bit easier.
When the screws turn out to be more evil and corrupt than the inmates, though he decides to ‘pick’ an alternative solution to his problems.
A watchable performance where, like prison, you might fail to notice the passage of time, there’s a couple of chief concerns.
The static interior of the cells for instance are impressive, but when there’s so many years to cover, quick-fire scenes stem the flow of the story.
Intimidation and violence, key in a prison-set production are neither threatening or graphic enough to instill any sense of fear.
That said, the wide-ranging characters - from old librarians to gang-raping thugs, from unlucky young bucks that should never be in prison, to bent officers - do provide some sense of life behind bars.
What this stage adaptation really has going for it are solid acting performances, an atmospheric set, and a TV soap-like ability to keep you watching throughout.
Doctors’ Ian Kelsey as Dufresne conveys a lot by not saying very much, and Casualty’s Patrick Robinson does well to fill Morgan Freeman’s shoes as prison ‘fixer’ Red.
Chances are you’ll sympathise with both characters, yet you can’t be 100% sure they’re innocent, or, like the title suggests, redeemed.
Overall, a stretch worth doing some time for.