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Onwukwe shines as the standout in the show

The Shawshank Redemption

Directed by David Esbjornson

Designed by Gary McCann

Review by David Bithell

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

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…

Photo credit Jack Merriman

It was great to watch this play for the first time at The Regent Theatre in Hanley. Wonderful minimalistic set of a prison designed by Gary McCann and emotively lit by Chris Davey. Red was the narrator throughout the story, played by Ben Onwukwe, the eagle eyed members of the audience will remember him who played Recall in the ITV hit show London’s Burning, a programme I have fond memories of watching as a youngster settling down Sunday night. Anyway back to this show. Ben who in my opinion was the standout in the show. Taking on the task of playing a role that was beautifully played in the film by none other than Morgan Freeman. No easy feat for anyone but Ben made the character his own.

Leading role Andy, is played by Joe Absolom (famously Matthew in Eastenders and Al Large in Doc Martin). Joe was superb in this role.

Photo credit Jack Merriman

As for the rest of the backing cast, a special light should be shone on the loveable Brooksie (played by Kenneth Jay), and the wicked Warden Stammas (played by Mark Hennahan). One of my favourite scenes of the play was when Brooksie had to leave The Shawshank Penitentiary, a scene which showed his apprehension of entering the big wide world after spending time inside.

Together, the cast and the production crew flawlessly retold this infamous story of injustice, friendship, hope and desperation – with moments that captivated the audience and bought them all closer together. Even though it is a really harrowing story, the play gives us a simple message of hope. If you are a fan of the film, you will definitely love this play, and if you haven’t seen the film, you are in for a real treat.

Photo credit Jack Merriman

The Shawshank Redemption is at the Regent Theatre, Hanley until Saturday 25th February 2023.

For tickets visit or by calling the box office on 0844 871 7615.

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