The Shawshank Redemption arrives at MK Theatre

The Shawshank Redemption is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 22nd October

Based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns, this thrilling stage production examines desperation, injustice, friendship and hope behind the claustrophobic bars of a maximum-security facility.

The 1994 feature film, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, was nominated for seven Academy Awards. The Shawshank Redemption went on to become the nation’s favourite movie and a huge source of inspiration to film makers, with The National Film Registry citing the film as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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…

This production sees Joe Absolom take on the role of the wrongly convicted Andy Dufresne with Ben Onwukwe as his inmate Ellis “Red” Redding.

Joe Absolom’s impressive TV career has barely seen him off our screens in twenty-five years: from Matthew Rose in EastEnders to Al Large in Doc Martin, Christopher Halliwell in A Confession and Andy Warren in The Bay

Joe Absolom said, “The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite films, an incredibly moving tale of friendship and injustice, and I’m thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Andy Dufresne on stage around the UK”.

Ben Onwukwe boasts a 30-year stage career including leading roles with the RSC and the Royal Court, as well as 11 years on TV as Recall McKenzie in London’s Burning and, more recently, the role of Jackson Donckers in Professor T.

Ben Onwukwe said, “I’m delighted to be returning to the role of “Red” in this amazing production. The Shawkshank Redemption film is one which many hold close to their hearts, and it’s exciting to be bringing Stephen King’s story to new audiences. It is a modern meditation on HOPE and in these times, it is Hope that we need”.

My thoughts on this production:
With a very strong cast behind them, Ben Onwukwe and Joe Absolom make a formidable team. with an excellent set giving the accurate impression of a cold, drab, stone prison exactly as described by Stephen King in the original book. At the beginning, Ben Onwukwe as Red has the unenviable but necessary task of quite a lengthy monologue to set the scene and tell the tale of his friend and fellow prisoner Andy, but he is a very commanding actor who has no trouble in quickly getting us – and keeping us spellbound during the narrative.
As you would expect after seeing him in many roles in TV dramas, Joe Absolom got the role of Andy Dufresne spot on! if anything he underplayed it which was just what was needed – we believed and liked the character of Andy from the start.
All of the characters in the story are so well defined by this great cast and, with the set and subtle use of sound effects (clanging prison doors etc), i dont know if Stephen King has been over to check out this latest production of his work, but I’m pretty sure he’ll love it when he does!

The Shawshank Redemption is currently on a major tour of the UK and I’d quite like to see how it works in a smaller more intimate space, but get to see it this week in MK Theatre if you can!

The Shawshank Redemption is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 22nd October

Box Office: 0844 871 7615 or www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Fishermen and Shanties galore at Milton Keynes

The world premiere production of FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL is set to visit Milton Keynes Theatre 04 – 08 October with an all star cast. 

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FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL is based on the true story of the Cornish singing sensations, Fisherman’s Friends, and the hit 2019 film about their life.  When a group of Cornish fishermen came together to sing the traditional working songs they’d sung for generations, they hoped to raise a few quid for charity.  Nobody, least of all the fishermen, expected their story to end on the Pyramid stage of Glastonbury.  Packed with sea shanties, FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS is a feelgood voyage about friendship, community and music.

Featuring hit shanties made famous by the band including Keep Haulin’Nelson’s BloodNo Hopers Jokers & Rogues and many more.

FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL is produced by ROYO with Flying Fish Productions, Mighty Village, Island Records, David Mirvish and Cornwall Playhouse Productions

Unfortunately for me, I had a seat in one of several patches in the circle at MKT with a sound problem that I have complained about over the years! Maybe its time for the sound engineer to actually take a walk round the entire theatre! So, wether it was this technical problem or not but several of the cast sounded as though 8 shows a week was telling on their voices! Although the actual words being sung ldidn’t reach us in our little corner of the row F in the circle i did speak to several of the more fortunate audience members during the interval and they confirmed my suspicion that the show might benefit from a re-think to get a little more book and maybe a couple less shanties! By the interval (72mins in) we only got as far as the record producer persuading the fishermen to record their first try. As the umpteenth shanty started for no apparent reason – but then if there was a reason i wouldn’t have heard it! – i almost expected cries of ”Oh get on with it!”

When I saw the original documentary I was truly excited at the wonderful story of the Fishermen’s Friends. I liked very much the idea of the musicians being part of the cast, I liked the set, I thought they got round the problem of having mostly the fishing inn but sometimes scenes in the boat in a rough sea so well – I just felt that the lib could be revised even at the cost of a couple of verses of shanty! The man sitting one side of me loved and joined in with every sea shanty, whereas the man sitting the other side of me slept through a great deal of it. so I dont expect everyone to agree with my thoughts.

Fisherman’s Friends is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 8th October.

Box Office: 0844 871 7615 or online: ATGTICKETS.COM/MILTONKEYNES