Tuesday, September 26

The Shawshank Redemption – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

Upon entering the Altrincham Garrick, I was immediately drawn into the chilling confines of the Shawshank Prison. The stage, impressively transformed for an amateur theatre, mirrors the grim atmosphere of a bleak, metallic prison block, further intensified by dim lighting. This ambiance, paired with the methodical procession of prisoners, sets an undeniable authentic tone. I definitely wouldn’t want to be there, and Director; Joseph Meighan has done an excellent job is creating this dirty world, where new inmates dare not step a foot out of line for fear of receiving brutal consequences.

This rendition of “The Shawshank Redemption” offers a fresh perspective on Stephen King’s iconic narrative, a tale that resonates with themes of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. A lengthy stay in prison would destroy most individuals, but somehow these guys manage to cling onto hope when it seems like it’s long gone. While I was familiar with the story, this adaptation managed to breathe new life into the tale, making it feel both nostalgic and novel.

The arrival of Andy Dufresne (Tom Broughton) at the Shawshank sets the cats amongst the pigeons. He is an intelligent, well-spoken, quiet man which some inmates feel threatened by. Broughton delivers a performance marked by determination and unwavering hope. His portrayal is beautifully complemented by Lewis Sewell’s empathetic and authentic delivery of Ellis ‘Red’ Redding. Their palpable chemistry is a testament to their individual talents and the visionary direction of Meighan. They have pushed theatrical boundaries for Am dram without alienating traditional audiences. The depth and nuance given to each character in the ensemble are evidence of this.

Some of the other members of the cast did seem a bit nervous – quite understandable given it was opening night. After a while, they relaxed into their roles. I will admit though I never once felt intimidated by any of the prison guards, I feel like they could have brought those authority figures to life a bit more.

The play’s deliberate pacing, which often leans towards the slower side, doesn’t ever really overwhelm or excite. There are a few scenes where the pacing does lift, most notably when Brooksie (Bill Platt) attempts to set himself on fire.

While this was an amateur production done to a very high standard, there were elements that I think could have been better. In particular, I think the costumes could have been better – some of them looked a bit too modern to be from the 1950s/1960s, and the prisoner numbers on the inmates’ shirts didn’t look authentic.

Overall, a great production. Those expecting a classic retelling of the movie may be slightly disappointed. However, it’s hard not to salute the hard work that has gone into this show.

The Shawshank Redemption continues at the Altrincham Garrick until 23rd September. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk/shows/shawshank/

Reviewer: Brian Madden

Reviewed: 14th September 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.