REVIEW: The Shawshank Redemption, Milton Keynes Theatre

Patrick Robinson as Red and Ian Kelsey as Andy Dufresne in the stage production of The Shawshank Redemption

Patrick Robinson as Red and Ian Kelsey as Andy Dufresne in the stage production of The Shawshank Redemption

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There may have been fear about taking one of the nation’s most popular films onto the stage, but the prison-based thriller has been given a new lease of life with this adaptation.

This year is the 21st anniversary of The Shawshank Redemption, which provides the inspiration for this new stage production by Bill Kenwright.

The Shawshank Redemption is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday

The Shawshank Redemption is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday

The short novel by Stephen King has been adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns and is likely to prove popular with fans of the film as well as those who are too young to remember the original format.

Based on the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, the play examines desperation, injustice, friendship and hope behind the bars of a maximum security facility.

The 1994 feature film, regularly voted Britain’s favourite ever movie, starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

Two of TV’s best loved leading men, Ian Kelsey (Doctors, Casualty and Emmerdale) and Patrick Robinson (Casualty, Midsomer Murders), star in this new production of The Shawshank Redemption, which is running at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday.

Despite protests of his innocence, Andy Dufresne is handed a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover.

Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank facility, he quickly learns that no one can survive alone.

Andy strikes up an unlikely friendship with the prison fixer Red, and things take a slight turn for the better.

However, when Warden Stammas decides to bully Andy into subservience and exploit his talents for accountancy, a desperate plan is quietly hatched.

A minimalist set is the perfect backdrop as the story unfolds in the confines of the prison walls.

Dim lighting with the sound of doors slamming and keys turning makes you feel as though you were inside the ‘Shank’ with the inmates.

The onstage partnership of Kelsey and Robinson has a genuine warmth to it, and this is complimented by their co-stars who bring both light and shade to the performance.

No one can miss the distinctive laugh of Rooster, wonderfully but hauntingly captured by Leigh Jones, and Ian Barritt as Brooksie and George Evans as Tommy Williams shine in their ‘darkest’ moments.

Owen O’Neill is perfect for the role of Warden Stammas, chillingly bringing a sense of fear to the stage every time he features.

With the film’s cult status, some die-hard fans may not like the fast-pace of the stage adaptation, which takes you through the years inside at a much quicker pace than the original film.

But there is no harm in breathing new life into a classic and if you loved the film, why not indulge yourself in re-living it in a new format.

The show contains strong language and adult content and is recommended for people aged 15 and over.

The show is running at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, November 21.

For tickets call 0844 8717652 or go to atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes.