“Dreams are what the future is made of… Hope will take you there.”
Did someone really mean that? And what did they really mean? We can’t imagine. It’s writ large in bright lights along the marquee of the Wyndham’s Theatre where The Shawshank Redemption is playing. The Whingers spent much of the interval mulling it over last night but frankly they were none the wiser once their mulling was done.
Shawshank was, of course, a rather agreeable film based on a novella by Stephen King. Then some people in Ireland decided to make it into a play which was put on at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre where – according to the hype surrounding the London transfer – it earned rave reviews. We could only find one review: it’s in the Irish Times written by Peter Crawley who seemed to like it well enough but he can hardly be described as raving.
But people are turning up in their droves regardless: there was hardly a spare seat in the stalls last night. It wasn’t available on TKTS and we’ve heard no rumours of the house being papered so we must assume these were mostly genuine punters attracted by the cachet of the film.
Many of them seemed to be American (a couple of them ovated at the end). Others had clearly been shipped in from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane where they are currently appearing in the audience of Oliver!. A woman behind Phil who was presumably familiar with the film was explaining to her companion what was about to happen next. Another had brought in a Starbucks iced drink and was slurping contentedly between rattling the ice throughout the first act. He or she must have popped out for another one during the interval judging by the continued baby’s rattle noises during the second act which ironically opened in the prison library with the instruction”Silence” chalked on the blackboard. But perhaps this audience hadn’t learnt to read yet.
A woman in front of Phil waited until the quietest moments to wriggle in her creaking seat making the Whingers faintly nostalgic for the Old Vic. The woman four seats away from Andrew must have had the world’s largest boiled sweet judging by the amount of time it took her to remove the wrapping. We’re not even going to mention the number and variety of mobile phone ringtones that punctuated the play.
There’s a suggested age limit of 15 due to nudity and bad language, but clearly nothing to suggest what their mental age should be. Actually that’s unfair, children (after the Whinger’s experience at Carrie’s War) know how to behave better than this motley mob.
Oh dear, there we go again, reviewing the audience instead of the play.
Right. In this version Kevin Anderson (who played Joe Gillis opposite Patti LuPone in Sunset Boulevard in London) plays Andy Dufresne and Reg E. Cathey (who’s in The Wire) plays Red. Both are locked up in Shawshank prison which smells of shit, piss, blood and fear (we are only told this, by the way). Dufresne is banged up for a murder he did not commit, Red for one he did. We think. The Whingers’ attentions were wandering from quite early on to be honest. Anyway, one escapes and the other gets parole and dreams are what the future is made of and hope takes them there.
Strangely, there is little sense of the passing of time in the play. It all seems to take perhaps a year or eighteen months whereas about 20 years is supposed to have elapsed and in the film this is rather cleverly shown by the changing icons on Dufresne’s wall – Rita Hayworth, Marylin Monroe and Raquel Welch.
Still, the Whingers did feel that 20 years had quite possibly passed despite the fairly modest running time of 2 hours 10 minutes. 20 years in 140 minutes ought to feel very rushed but Shawshank is a strangely plodding experience, curiously flat and seems to contain very little in the way of anything much happening despite the fact that there’s a rape scene, a hanging, a lot of hitting people on the back of the thighs with cardboard batons and a couple of rather effective fight scenes which for once are not choreographed by Terry King (who would win in a stage fight, do you think? Terry King or Karl Magee?).
Mostly Shawshank just made the Whingers want to see the film again. Putting it on stage added nothing (other than a set that made them yearn for “Cell Block Tango”) and took away quite a lot. Still it will presumably do very well judging by the enthusiastic reception last night.
But back to “Dreams are what the future is made of… Hope will take you there.” What was it all about?
In the Irish Times, Mr Crawley said he saw in the play a Christ parable. The Whingers didn’t really get that. And who or what was redeemed? Try as we might all we could think about was Green Shield Stamps. Director Peter Sheridan says in the programme notes that it’s the story of two men who redeem one another. “Andy saves Red but has to look at the wreckage of his own past and confront it. Red saves Andy but not before he realises that he must allow hope into his head and into hs heart. They are bound up together and, without that friendship, there is no redemption.” Well, we obviously weren’t concentrating because we missed all of that. Phil quite liked the lighting.
One definition of redemption is ” the act of purchasing back something previously sold” but sadly the Wyndham’s box office wasn’t having any of it when we made polite enquiries on the way out.
Cafe Koha is the ideal place for a pre- and post-theatre drink as the outside seating affords an unrivalled viewpoint from which you can observe the various comings and goings from the Wyndham’s and Coward stage doors including actors popping out for a fag. It was lovely to see Calendar Girl Jerry Hall hanging out with some of the Shawshankers. We love Jerry.