While I was in London last week for the Apple Tech Talk, I decided to go watch The Shawshank Redemption at the Wyndham Theatre.
I love the short story and I love the film. So when I noticed the other day that there was a play on in London, and that it was only running until the end of November, then I figured I should go watch it while I had the opportunity of being up there.
Firstly, I enjoyed watching it. It wasn’t great, it was ok.
I wonder if I am just not attuned to theatre. I don’t mind musical theatre, I get that, but the difference between plays and films seems to be vast. In this case, everything seems to be said in a shout.
The play is apparently based on the book and not the film – plenty of copyright issues here I guess. The problem is that Frank Darabont did a magnificent job of adapting the book, that it was always going to be hard to stray away from that. So the first think the writers did to differentiate the play from the film was to go back to the original source and have Red as a red-haired white man of Irish ethnicity – right? Wrong! Red is a Morgan Freeman wannabe… and it doesn’t work. His voice is gravelly, and fast, and loud. Morgan Freeman is controlled, slow, and soothing. I can’t read the book anymore without hearing Morgan Freeman narrating for me.
The version of Red’s voice-over, that makes the hairs stand up when delivered in the film…
There’s a con like me in every prison
in America, I guess. I’m the guy who
can get it for you. Cigarettes, a
bag of reefer if you’re partial, a
bottle of brandy to celebrate your
kid’s high school graduation. Damn
near anything, within reason.
In the play, this is the opening lines… rushed, shouted, gravelly, and disappointing…
All in all my concerns with the play were that even though the writers were apparently trying to steer clear of the film, they kept coming back to it. Many of the characters seemed liked they were poor versions of the film characters. In fact Tommy was almost identical that I wondered if they had just lifted the original actor.
In the film many of the characters we amalgamation of multiple characters – Brooks and The Warden in particular. In the play – yep you guessed it – amalgamations. Warden Norton – looked the same, if a little more portly!
I hated Andy Dufresne in the play ( Kevin Anderson). He’s cocky, too forward, almost having a controlled route through his time at the shank. But he still has this kind of Tim Robbins look-a-like thing going on.
So in the end, the play can’t make it’s mind up – be the film, be the book, or be neither. There are some very odd changes and additions that had no earthly right being there.
To be honest, I think the play is really cashing in on the film and not a decent theatrical version of the book. The writers have tried to avoid the obvious copyright issues without dropping things that their audience of film fans might take issues with. I mean, the whole thing starts with the name right? Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption…
I think my favourite part was when the cast sing as Tommy is hanging in his cell… that was a wonderful moment, and almost worth the entrance fee alone.