Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Shawshank Redemption

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


While there are plenty of bankers who should be in prison, Andy Dufresne,
the banged-up hero of Stephen King's 1982 short story, Rita Hayworth and
Shawshank Redemption, isn't one one of them. It is to King's original story
rather than the iconic 1994 big-screen version of it that Owen O'Neill
and Dave Johns' stage adaptation looks to.

Here, Dufresne's incarceration for allegedly killing his wife and her lover in 1940s America is told through the eyes of Ellis 'Red' Redding, the prison go-to man, who can supply pretty much anything
any self-respecting jailbird would need. For Dufresne, this includes a rock
hammer and a pin-up poster of Hayworth for reasons which are eventually made
clear.

Inbetween navigating his way through the institutionalised brutality of
the penal system on both sides of the law, Dufresne manages to negotiate a
library into being. This becomes a symbol of his quietly unwavering
determination to stay true to himself over the next two decades in the face of
the iniquities of the prison caste system. Salvation trickles down too through
hoarded copies of banned novels, while Dufresne guides George Evans' serial
delinquent Tommy Williams through his exams.

With its roots in O'Neill and Johns' own production seen in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, David Esbjornson's touring production of this rewritten version scales things up on
Gary McCann's expansive prison set. Ian Kelsey makes for a powerfully stoic
Dufresne and Patrick Robinson an equally charismatic Red, while O'Neill drips
hypocritical venom as Warden Stammas. All of which makes for a powerful treatise
on integrity and honesty for a full-blown meditation on the pains of confinement
and the power of hope beyond.

The Herald, October 7th 2015


ends

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