ΛΟΝΔΙΝΟ. Η μεταφορά θεατρικών έργων στον κινηματογράφο είναι συνηθισμένη πρακτική, συχνά με λαμπρά αποτελέσματα. Τα τελευταία χρόνια παρατηρείται και η αντίστροφη τάση: από τον κινηματογράφο στο θέατρο.
Βρετανός σχολιαστής απαριθμεί προχείρως σχεδόν δέκα τέτοιες περιπτώσεις. Σε αυτές έρχεται τώρα να προστεθεί η Ρίτα Χέιγουορθ: τελευταία έξοδος που παίζεται στο θέατρο Wyndham΄s (ως τις 14 Φεβρουαρίου), με τον πρωτότυπο τίτλο της φυσικά, Τhe Shawshank Redemption. Βασισμένη στην ομότιτλη νουβέλα του Στίβεν Κινγκ, η ταινία, του 1994, παρά τις κάποιες αδυναμίες της που επισημαίνει η κριτική, είναι μια από τις δημοφιλέστερες στην ιστορία του κινηματογράφου. Δύσκολα, πράγματι, μένει κανείς ασυγκίνητος από την ιστορία του ήρωα ο οποίος, άδικα φυλακισμένος, παίρνει από τον σαδιστή διευθυντή του δεσμωτηρίου μια απολαυστική εκδίκηση την οποία αργότερα μοιράζεται και ο καλός του φίλος. Σε αυτή τη δημοτικότητα υπολογίζουν προφανώς και οι παραγωγοί της θεατρικής διασκευής των Οουεν Νιλ και Ντέιβ Τζονς, την οποία σκηνοθέτησε ο Πίτερ Σέρινταν και στην οποία πρωταγωνιστούν οι γνωστοί από τον κινηματογράφο και την τηλεόραση αμερικανοί ηθοποιοί Κέβιν Αντερσον και Ρεγκ Κάθεϊ (οι δυο τους στη φωτογραφία). Η κριτική αναγνωρίζει στο θεατρικό έργο πιθανότητες να μπορέσει να εκμεταλλευθεί την αγάπη του κοινού για την ταινία και να σημειώσει εμπορική επιτυχία. Διαπιστώνει ωστόσο καλλιτεχνικές αδυναμίες που το καθιστούν, φαίνεται, υποδεέστερο από την ταινία. Αλλοι δεν είναι τόσο αυστηροί, μολονότι και η δική τους ετυμηγορία είναι διφορούμενη. «Δείτε το» λέει ένας κριτικός «ή δείτε την ταινία σε DVD». [ars… brevis, επιμέλεια: Αναστασία Ζενάκου, Το Βήμα, 20/09/2009]
Based on the 1982 Stephen King novella, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne, who is sentenced to life in Shawshank Prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. Stripped of his freedom, Andy is forced to endure a spirit-crushing routine, but with his quiet strength and inner courage there is one thing Andy never loses: hope.
Andy Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife and his lover and is sent to the notorious Shawshank Prison to serve two life sentences. Stripped of his life, family and freedom, Andy is forced to endure a spirit-crushing routine. But with his quiet strength and inner courage, there is one thing that Andy never loses – and that is hope. This unforgettable story of courage, friendship and daring to hope stars Kevin Anderson (Sleeping with the Enemy, member of the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company) and Reg E. Cathey (from cult US television The Wire).
Previews from 4 September 2009
Opening night 13th September 2009
Andy – Kevin Anderson
Red – Reg E. Cathey
Brooksie – Geoffrey Hutchings
Stammas – Mitchell Mullen
Bogs – Joe Hanley
Tommy – Diarmuid Noyes
Hadley – Shane Attwooll
Mayor – Nick Sampson
Stone – Sean Baker
Ernie – Lee Oakes
Heywood – Ryan McCluskey
Chester – Geff Francis
Pete – Barry Aird
Rooster – Nicholas Aaron
Entwistle – Peter Vollebregt
Rico – Nathan Clough
Guard – Simon Naylor
Buddy – Ronan Raftery
Prisoner – Gary Trainor
Based on a Novella by Stephen King
For Stephen King, Andrew Welch
Writers – Owen O’ Neill & Dave Johns
Director – Peter Sheridan
set & Costume Designer – Ferdia Murphy
Lighting Designer – Kevin Treacy
Composer and Sound Designer – Denis Clohessy
Production Manager – Patrick Molony
Costume Supervisor – Tracy Stiles
Assistant Director – Beth Eden
Fight Director – Karl McGee
Props Supervisor – Kate McDowell
The Shawshank Redemption: tale of redemption takes centre stage
The Shawshank Redemption is preparing to make its debut in the West End.
- By Robert Gore-Langton, Telegraph, 30 Aug 2009Reg. E Cathey (Red), Kevin Anderson (Andy Dufresne), Wyndham’s Theatre Photo: ANTHONY WOODS
When the film The Shawshank Redemption, a low-key prison drama, was released in 1995 , it was a box-office flop. Its terrible title didn’t help. Nominated for seven Oscars it didn’t get one, losing out at the awards to that year’s cheesy blockbuster Forrest Gump, in which Tom Hanks played the film’s eponymous moron. The second Shawshank was released as a video rental, however, it took its revenge; its reputation has snowballed to the point where it now inspires almost religious fervour in fans, and in polls competes with The Godfather as one the best-loved Hollywood movies of all time.
The theatre version of the 1982 novella by Stephen King on which the film is based is now coming to the London stage, via a hugely successful run at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre. That success is due to the film’s fame and to its two glamorous American screen stars, Kevin Anderson (he was in Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts) and Reg E Cathey (Norman Wilson in television series The Wire), as the leads.
But just what is it that has audiences so enthralled by this story of two friends holed up for life in a brutal, post-war prison in Maine? In a way, it’s a modern American version of The Count of Monte Cristo, only with blue denim fatigues, Lucky Strikes and girlie posters.
In the story, a mild-mannered banker Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins in the film) is jailed for killing his wife and her lover – a crime he didn’t commit. Inside the stone walls of the Shawshank penitentiary he makes friends with long-term inmate, Red, the likeable prison fixer who can get anybody anything, played with a twinkle on screen by Morgan Freeman who also narrates the story.
The decades pass. Andy is raped, beaten, does solitary and his money-laundering skills exploited by a prison warden. He never loses hope and freedom finally beckons with an escape plan involving a geologist’s rock hammer, a poster of Rita Hayworth and Mexico. It’s a story so engrossing, so pumped up with the power of hope, that you hardly notice the plot’s utter implausibility.
The stage version of the novella has been written by two comedians – Dave Johns and Owen O’Neill – who adored the film and were responsible for the recent theatre version of Twelve Angry Men. It is directed by the genial Irish writer-director Peter Sheridan (younger brother of filmmaker Jim Sheridan) whose task was to knock it into a theatrical form even if it meant annoying film fans.
“As Peter Brook said, there are things theatre does better than film and metaphor is one of them,” Peter Sheridan says. “We use a metaphor for the escape – you can’t have people crawling down sewer pipes on stage. But there are similarities with the movie. I read the original Stephen King novella to discover that the character called Red is a white Irish-American. It was an inspired piece of casting to make him black in the film – so why buck the trend? What the film – and our story – became was not just the friendship between two men, but a friendship across a racial divide.” King has spoken to none of the creatives or producers on the project. But through “his people” in London he has been a model of co-operation. He clearly likes any new creative take on his work. When the tyro director Frank Darabont made the Shawshank film, he invented moments not in the book. King adored the result. He wrote in a preface to a reprint of the novella that it was as good as films get on the subject of how men love each other and how they survive. “The story has heart,” King wrote. “The movie has more.” King, mind you, is an eccentric judge. In his 10 favourite adaptations of his work he omits the best by a mile: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
The problem for the theatre version is they have the rights to the book, not the film. The added movie moments are guarded by Warner Brothers’s lawyers. And they are moments everyone loves. For example, when Andy says “get busy living or get busy dying”; the flashbacks to his wife’s murderer’s confession; and most famously when Andy plays The Marriage of Figaro over the prison PA and a thousand hardbitten cons stand transfixed by the beauty of the ladies’ duet. There is also a gratifying comeuppance for the sadistic religious warden (whose favourite scripture is wonderful: “His judgement cometh and that right soon”) that’s not in the book. But Sheridan isn’t bothered. The movie moments wouldn’t work on stage, he argues. The key thing, once the script was workshopped and sorted, was getting the cast chemistry right. The show needed a black actor for Red.
Dublin is hardly cluttered with black actors and London produced nobody suitable. So Sheridan was forced to go to New York and “do something I have never done in my career. I missed Cheltenham Festival week.” The second he found Reg Cathey in New York, he didn’t bother to audition anyone else for the part of Red. “The guy made me cry he was that good.” For the casting of Andy, the aloof, self contained banker, he was tipped off that Kevin Anderson was his man. “I checked out his stage work on video and he was just what I was after. But he was in Las Vegas and he hasn’t got an agent. Anyway I got his number. I rang and said ‘why are you in Vegas?’
»He said: ‘Cos I’m in the middle of a poker tournament.’ I thought that’s a very Andy Dufresne kind of thing to say. I like this guy. Then I thought, dammit I’ve missed the Cheltenham Festival and there he is in Vegas gambling his a— off in a game of Texas hold ’em. Anyway, once he read he script he came straight to Dublin.”
Sheridan has come to regard Shawshank as a metaphor for addiction: “What King was really writing about was people locked inside something they could not escape from. Even though it is set in a prison, which most people have never experienced, most have felt the craziness of being trapped. It’s subliminal but it’s there.” In Dublin, the show got what Sheridan calls “mixy” reviews, but rave audiences. “When the film came out, one of the few countries it did great business in was Ireland. It was a huge hit. I believe that has to do with the perception of prison in Ireland being different. In Ireland, anybody who was anybody in the 20th century spent time in jail. All of our political leaders – Parnell, Collins, De Valera – did time. Being in prison for us isn’t a negative thing.” The subject of confinement is close to Sheridan’s heart and career. As a youngster he was in Journal of a Hole, co-written by Neil Jordan and his brother Jim. In 1977 he put on a show called The Liberty Suit, a prison drama that gave Gabriel Byrne his big break. As a writer and director he has returned to jail over and over, most recently directing the film Borstal Boy, based on Brendan Behan’s memoir.
It’s clearly a family thing. His brother Jim directed the celebrated film In The Name Of The Father, about the Conlon family and the wrongly imprisoned Guildford Four. “The Conlon story has big parallels to Shawshank. Even when Andy has the tools to prove his innocence the system turns on him. That has huge resonances if you’re Irish.” For connoisseurs of sadistic prison wardens, Shawshank will be up against Tennessee Williams’s early play Not About Nightingales, staged at the National in 1998, which had Corin Redgrave as the stone-faced warden. Shawshank, of course, adds a Hollywood feelgood factor to the misery and there was some debate about whether Red and Andy should embrace in the last scene. “We went against it,” Sheridan says. “But what happened was at the curtain call when the two actors came out to bow they then embraced and the audience went completely nuts. Now they do it every night. It’s the only show I have ever done where the curtain call has become an extra scene.” In the book the pin-up girls in Andy’s cell change to indicate the passing of time, ending up with Linda Rondstadt. In the theatre Rita Hayworth is a constant shining beacon, an object of bosomy longing. Sheridan comes back to the story as one of hope and release. “Andy’s escape is something plot-wise I don’t buy,” he admits. “But it’s an implausibility you obliterate because you want to believe. The possibility of escape has to be true otherwise this world is just too f—–g grim. That’s what this show is about – how hope springs eternal.”
- ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is at Wyndhams Theatre, London from Sept 4 – Feb 14