Joe Absolom is funny, quick, self deprecating, engaging, entirely lacking in ego and refreshingly honest.
He is also starring in the dynamic new stage adaption of the globally esteemed Shawshank Redemption at Oxford Playhouse this week, wrongly convicted of the brutal murder of his wife and her lover and incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank facility, alongside Ben Onwukwe. read our review here
A hybrid of the Stephen King novel and the 1994 award-winning movie, Joe hadn’t even seen the film when got the part and yet the reviews are incredible.
“Theatre is a different ball game,” Joe replies. “I always knew it was going to be tough but this tour has given me a newfound respect for theatre stars because of the energy required.
it’s sad it’s over. doc martin was a nice job, nice people, nice area. I’m sure that it will all hit me at some point”
“Eight shows a week is pretty intense and Shawshank Redemption is quite physical because of the fights, so it’s quite knackering. I’m also having to get used to the sound of my own voice, because there is a lot of shouting and projecting. But I’m proud of it. We just have to keep the momentum going.
The arrival of Shawshank Redemption in Joe’s life came just at the right time, as the much loved TV series Doc Martin has just filmed its final episode after 18 years on our screens.
A big shock to the system then? “It was a nice job, nice people, nice area. It’s sad and I’m sure that it will all hit me at some point, because inevitably you take it for granted. So for 18 years I have had to keep reminding myself to enjoy it and not to get used to it,” Joe said sadly.
“But Doc Martin did so well and they managed to keep it fresh, so it was a wise decision to go out on a high.”
Doc Martin did however mean that Joe moved his family to Cornwall from London for a better way of life and is now firmly entrenched in the local community. So does he surf?
“I’m a bobber arounder not a surfer. I’d rather sit in the pub and watch someone else do it”
“I’m a bobber arounder not a surfer. Some of the dads live for surfing, but I’d rather sit in the pub and watch someone else do it,” he laughs.
“But then I’m pretty terrified of the sea. I watched Jaws at an early age and always think there might be a shark out there just waiting to bite me. So I like dipping in and out, and admiring the sea from a distance. But surfing? No.”
“So it’s not too bad being on tour, because everyone is hibernating in Cornwall at the moment, except that I miss my wife and family of course.
So what next? More theatre? “Well Antony Sher’s obituary and achievements were much more exciting than mine, so maybe yes. I’ve just read Hamlet – the kids version – so I could understand what it all meant, so maybe something at that level, something more grown up?”
“I didn’t even know the right theatre terminology, like ‘stalls’ and the ‘circle’. Everyone wanted to know how I’d got this far without knowing”
We can thank Eddie Izzard for bringing Joe to the stage at all. Until then he’d only starred as Tony in Abigails Party in the West End “although I didn’t do much except eat a lot of cheese and pineapple.”
Catching Eddie Izzard in his one person show however changed everything. “He was brilliant, wearing these thigh high boots and strutting round the stage,” Joe remembers, and I thought I’d like to try to do something new like that, so I rang my agent and they came back with Shawshank.”
I’m basically just a jobbing actor, bit I’m an optimistic one even if sometimes I do ask myself ‘what am I doing?’
It did mean that when Joe embarked on the tour he was a bit unprepared: “I didn’t even know the right theatre terminology, such as ‘stalls’ and the ‘circle’,” he says. “Everyone wanted to know how I’d got this far without knowing,” he laughs.
And yet ask him what his appeal is and he side steps the question with great agility, eventually saying “I’m very punctual? I honestly don’t know. But there have been times when there’s been no work for 15/16 months.
“I’m basically just a jobbing actor, bit I’m an optimistic one even if sometimes I do ask myself ‘what am I doing?”
Shawshank Redemption comes to Oxford Playhouse from Mon 6 – Sat 11 Feb. Tickets at https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/the-shawshank-redemption