THE Shawshank Redemption is at or near the top of most people’s favourite films list, so how does Joe Absolom, who’s about to play the lead character Andy Dufresne on stage, feel about it?

“I hadn’t seen it and I thought there was a line in it about a box of chocolates,” he laughs. “Of course, I’d got it mixed up with Forrest Gump.

“My wife told me to watch it because it’s one of her favourite films and everyone I spoke to about the play went ‘It’s a brilliant film’. So, I watched it with my wife and I was amazed by how good it was, but also terrified about doing it on stage because it’s iconic in lots of ways.”

The stage production faces the problem that almost everyone knows the ending. But Joe, who is best known for his TV roles in EastEnders and Doc Martin, says there are still a few surprises in store.

“There are a few tweaks,” he says. “It’s like the story of Titanic. When we went to see the film we all knew the ship was going to sink but it was about how they got there and how it was dramatised. 

“It’s the same with this play, bringing all the characters together and taking them and the audience on a journey.”

The Shawshank Redemption is set in a notorious US prison. Despite his protests of innocence, Andy Dufresne is sent there for a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. 

Andy quickly learns that no-one can survive there alone. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with the prison fixer Red, and things take a slight turn for the better. 

However, when Warden Stammas decides to bully him into subservience and exploit his talents for accountancy, a desperate plan is quietly hatched.

“Andy is a good man to whom this awful event happens,” explains Joe. “He’s suddenly in a prison surrounded by people who want to tear him apart. But he’s the quiet guy who just wants to keep his head down and try and get through this ordeal. 

“His resolve is something that really appealed to me. You hear stories about people like him patiently digging their way out of prisoner of war camps and I don’t know how they do it, managing just a few millimetres every day. 

“The thought of tunnelling through a stone wall with a spoon is so alien to us in an age where accessing everything is so immediate.”

The Shawshank Redemption is at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from Monday 17 April until Saturday 22 April.