Anyone who sees the film of The Shawshank Redemption won’t forget it in a hurry.

The classic movie, adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, was slow to catch on when it was first released in 1994 but the slow burner has become a favourite on many a top films list.

Now it’s on stage and at Oxford’s New Theatre this week Paul Nicholls is treading in the footsteps of Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker sent to “The Shank” for the murder of his wife and her lover; while Ben Onwukwe has the unenviable task of taking the Morgan Freeman role of long-term prisoner and Mr “Get it” Red.

Hard acts to follow but they pull it off with aplomb and, in the words of many an X Factor judge, “make it their own”.

They are backed by a strong cast – 12 in all – which includes Jack Ellis as corrupt Warden Stammas and Daniel Stewart as sadistic guard Hadley.

It’s a powerful drama, with hope at its core, which includes scenes of violence, death and gang rape – nothing too graphic but leaving the audience in no doubt about what is happening.

It doesn’t slavishly follow either the print or film versions (which also differed from each other in some respects) but all the key elements are there.

Scenes that would prove difficult to stage are narrated or explained through characters’ dialogue.

The action takes place in a maximum security prison over the course of 20 years. Great use is made of music which punctuates the passing years: when Johnny Cash makes way to Bob Dylan, you feel the times are a’changing.

The sound (Dan Samson), set (Gary McCann) and lighting (Chris Davey) are all extremely well done: the drip, drip drip echoing around the bleak prison walls, a moment where Dufresne’s face is bathed in a soft glow as he watches his fellow inmates enjoy beers he procured for them subtly add to the atmosphere.

I’m giving it four stars because good as the performances were, the play itself didn’t quite have that certain something to tip it into greatness.

It’s well worth seeing though. 4/5

Continues at New Theatre, Oxford, until Saturday