The recent tradition of having comedians appear in the Assembly Rooms annual fringe classic continues with Omid Djalili leading Owen O'Neill and Dave Johns' slimmed down stage version of the movie favourite.
Djalili plays the Morgan Freeman role of Red, described in the Stephen King novella as an Irishman with red hair, and he does okay, without finding that spiritual dimension in the role that distinguished both Freeman on film and Reg E Cathey in Peter Sheridan's production four years ago in the West End.
The play is about liberty in prison, freedom in adversity, friendship in the depths of despair and brutality, and Lucy Pitman-Wallace's efficient production, though neatly staged around five mobile prison towers, doesn't quite hit the mark, nor does it carry a sense of passing time over 30 years.
But Djalili, more shyster than shaman, more fixer than fantasy-dealer, is a likeable if underpowered stage presence, and the lean and lanky Kyle Secor is outstanding as Andy Dufresne, the high-flying banker wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover.
That strand in the play is brilliantly resolved in the scenes with Jack Monaghan's baby-faced Tommy Williams, whom Andy adopts inside and tutors before their project is brutally crushed. Ian Lavender chips in with a lovely (though too long-haired) old Brooksie, and the rapist gang of "sisters" are reduced to the gruesome twosome of Vincenzo Nicoli and Terry Alderton. Owen O'Neill himself slithers sleekly around as the corrupt warden.