Writer: Rona Munro from an original storyline by Ian Rankin
Director: Robin Lefevre
Designer: Ti Green
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
It is a retired John Rebus who appears in his first stage outing, Long Shadows. Currently trying to keep off the cigarettes and booze, Ian Rankin’s best-selling and much-loved detective is living a very different life in his Edinburgh flat. Not exactly in graceful retirement, he is haunted by thoughts of the one’s that got away – the criminals not the romantic kind.
Rebus is plunged straight back into investigation and firmly back off the wagon, when the daughter of the victim of a 17-year-old unsolved murder appears at his door. His once loyal colleague DI Siobhan Clarke has to tread carefully when it transpires that Rebus’ actions in the past may put the conviction of a rapist and murderer and her promotion to DCI, in jeopardy. As every reader of the best-selling novels knows, where Rebus’ past is concerned, it is inevitable that his arch nemesis Big Ger Cafferty will soon appear firmly centre stage.
Playwright Rona Munro has created the first Rebus play based on an original story by Rankin, and as has become her trademark, it is long on dialogue and drama. Tightly written and atmospheric throughout, fans of the novels will be pleased that it has just as many twists and turns.
Scots TV veteran Ron Donachie steps into Rebus’ well-worn shoes and curmudgeonly character. His deft touch and naturalistic portrayal of the often larger than life Rebus is a masterclass in exquisitely judged acting. What could so easily have been an excuse to ham it up, is instead a perfectly pitched portrayal. John Stahl is a suitably oily Cafferty, living the highlife in his 7th floor penthouse, clad in some eye-catching threads. Stahl, another much-loved Scottish acting veteran, has fabulous chemistry with Donachie, something essential to the success of the piece, due to Rankin’s 30-year development in print of the pair’s relationship. Less successful is Cathy Tyson’s portrayal of Rebus’ former police partner, DI Clarke, she is under-used and a little stiff in comparison to the easy chemistry between Donachie and Stahl.
The staging is darkly atmospheric, the only criticism would be the lack of one of its most essential elements – the city of Edinburgh. Rankin delivers such a sense of place in every novel, the atmosphere of the place oozes from every page, so much so that our capital city is almost a character in itself.
Expectations are high when any much-loved Scottish character makes their way to the stage, and thankfully Munro’s adaptation of Rankin’s beloved character delivers plenty of thrills and chills to entertain. Hopefully Rebus’ life continues to expand beyond the pages of Rankin’s novels. Well worth watching for crime fans.
Runs until 2 February 2019 | Image: Contributed