Based on the short novel by Stephen King – Adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns

In times of dwindling audiences across the country, having a familiar title pop out of the brochure with popular TV actors in lead roles might make a show more appealing. When the show is based on the novella behind one of the most iconic films of all time; the bar is set remarkably high.

Based on the classic film, Shawshank tells the story of Andy Dufresne who is handed a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover, despite protesting his innocence.

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 (played by Owen O’Neill who also adapts) decides to bully Andy into subservience and exploit his talents for accountancy, a desperate plan is quietly hatched.

The big budget design dwarfs the heart of the tale; Patrick Robinson turns in a strong central performance as Red whereas Ian Kelsey lacks the power to being Andy to full realisation. The cast are hindered by a chunky script and the episodic nature of the piece stifles the dramatic development. Scene changes are often well choreographed adding a great twist of pace but this device becomes inconsistent. The fight scenes are unconvincing and the brutality of the sexual abuse diluted through their direction.

There was a good response from the audience and clearly some enjoyed the “celebrity casting” but somehow there needs to be a little more depth in the writing and performances to get to the core of this great story.

** (2 stars)

Petra Schofield