American actors Kevin Anderson and Reg E Cathey lead the 20-strong cast as Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, two prison inmates who develop a life-long friendship after the former, a banker, is wrongly incarcerated for the murder of his wife. Cathey, who makes his London stage debut in the production, is a familiar face to TV fans from The Wire.
Paul Taylor in the Independent captured much of the critical consensus, noting that there’s no doubt “a large potential market for a stage version” but still questioning: “is there any artistic justification?” The answer, according to most, was, not really. Some felt that the stage production lacks a “sense of passing time” as it tries but fails to find “the right recurring rhythms”. Notably, Whatsonstage.com’s own Michael Coveney disagreed, who declared that “this clever stage adaptation” is as powerful as any prison drama since “Kenneth Brown’s The Brig in the mid-1960s”. There was more agreement with regard to the two “brilliant” lead actors, particularly Reg E Cathey.