The Shawshank Redemption – The Churchill Theatre, Bromley

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I recall watching the hit 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption a number of years ago and despite my initial reservations it soon became one of my favourite films. When I heard that a stage adaption was making its way to The Churchill Theatre, Bromley I couldn’t wait to see it!

The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of the inmates at the Shawshank penitentiary. It pays particular focus on a number of characters including Andy Dufresne who appears slightly on edge at first but continually proclaims his innocence despite the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. ‘Red’, a man who helps the inmates with getting anything what they want and a warden who ends up building an unlikely friendship with Dufresne. The friendships, the story and the heartwarming ending makes for a fantastic film and it is this fantastic storyline that has lead to its huge success.

Andy Dufresne played by Paul Nicholls played his part well however I found his strength of character rather weak and both his diction and projection of his voice were poor, which lead to many audience members not being able to understand or hear him, especially when there was other activity going on at the same time. This lead to me at times not feeling entirely convinced by him wanting to escape and I didn’t feel particularly passionate about his struggle for freedom.

I really enjoyed the performance of ‘Red’ played by Ben Onwukwe and although he plays the main character and has a large part to play (and the comparison to Morgan Freeman in the film) he performed extremely well and both his accent and performance were perfect for the part.

Alongside Red and Andy were the supporting parts of Tommy and Brooksie – both I felt played the parts well, although I did expect to feel a lot more towards Brooksie, especially once he left Shawshank and his unfortunate death.

The set itself is simplistic in design but the high walls of the prison blocks make this a great set and with various pieces being flown in, makes for a good multi functional set, without taking away any of the atmosphere that had been built throughout the production. The clever use of simple yet effective lighting adds to the tension needed for this performance and various hard-hitting scenes in which the lighting has been well thought of.

Whilst I enjoyed this production, it was hard to not compare to the film and I felt as though there was more needed to make this an enjoyable performance as well driving a huge impact with some very gritty storylines that are in the show. Despite a strong performance in parts, I wanted more from this production but unfortunately it was at time flat.

For further details about seeing The Shawshank Redemption at The Churchill Theatre until 5th November 2016.

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