The Shawshank Redemption, Lyceum Theatre

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The nation’s favourite film, The Shawshank Redemption, has been adapted for the stage and appears at the Lyceum next week with ex-EastEnder Paul Nicholls in the lead role.

Paul, who played Joe Wicks in the soap and was DS Sam Casey in Law & Order, stars as Andy Dufresne, serving a life sentence in prison for murdering his wife and her lover.

Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank jail, he learns that no-one can survive alone.

Things get better when he becomes friends with prison fixer Red but then bullying Warden Stammas exploits his talent for accountancy and a desperate plan is born...

Paul talks here in a Q&A.

How would you sum up the character of Andy?

He’s very pragmatic and has, I think, a beautiful soul. But he’s not just one thing – he’s also a fighter and he refuses to give up.

What do you most enjoy about playing him?

There are a lot of layers to Andy and the thing we have in common is that we are both fighters in our own way and we both refuse to give up.

I can also kind of identify with the fact that you can’t be open with everybody. There’s a certain element of him having to keep emotions out of relationships within the prison, which I kind of understand – not that I’ve been in prison. But for me he’s almost superhuman.

He does crack at some point but he always manages to think clearly under pressure and he’s very intelligent and highly educated. I’m not highly educated, I’m kind of self-taught in a way in various subjects. I never did A-levels.

So immediately the fear was ‘I’m not clever or intelligent enough to play this part’, then you realise that’s not true and you don’t have to have a degree and a masters and a PhD to play the part. You just have to say the lines.

The Shawshank Redemption was a novella, then a film, now a play… Why do you think it enthralls people so much?

I remember my dad ringing me up going ‘Have you seen The Shawshank Redemption?’ and I was like ‘I first saw it years ago and have seen it about 5,000 times!’ He went ‘God, what a film!’

It’s a story about hope and the human spirit, but the thing that transcends all that is ‘it doesn’t matter what class you are’ – working class people and middle class people and upper class people can all relate to being against the system.

n The Shawshank Redemption is at the Lyceum next Monday to Saturday. Box office: 0114 2496000 or online at Sheffield Theatres