Writer: Ian Rankin
Adaptor: Rona Munro
Director: Robin Lefevre
Reviewer: Alice Fowler
“Winners and losers, John: that’s what it all comes down to.” So opines John Rebus’s old adversary, ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty, in this suspenseful new Rebus tale, written by Ian Rankin for the stage.
Loathsome crime boss Cafferty, superbly played by John Stahl, is firmly on the up. Surveying Edinburgh from his penthouse suite, he preens and paces, humiliating Rebus while plying him with wine that costs £650 a bottle.
Rebus, meanwhile – Charles Lawson, excellent too – certainly seems a loser. Retired from the police, he is out of step with the modern world and haunted by the ghosts of two young women whose murders were never solved. Marooned in his dusty flat, on the wagon but not for long, Rebus has become a thorn in the side of old ally Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke. Clarke, a convincing Cathy Tyson, is torn between affection for her old mentor and exasperation with a man unable to let go.
Ian Rankin’s curmudgeonly detective first appeared in print in 1987. Rather than adapt an existing book – there are nineteen so far, with a 20th on the way – the author opted for something new, working with Scottish playwright Rona Munro. The result is a compelling psychological study that explores the many shades of grey between those who break the law and those whose job is to enforce it.
Charles Lawson, best known as Jim McDonald in Coronation Street, makes the most of Rebus’s frailties. A worn-out, lonely figure, Rebus is a man rooted in another age. When a young woman appears on his stairwell, and Rebus learns she is the daughter of a woman whose murder was never solved, he cannot help but come involved. But Rebus’s methods – crunching a man’s fingers, for example, to help him tell the truth – are firmly old school. Crimes these days – even old ones – are solved by forensics. And Rebus, as well as Cafferty, has secrets he needs to hide.
As Cafferty taunts Rebus in a wonderfully tense denouement, new truths emerge. Rebus’s assumptions – and those of the audience, perhaps – are out of date. Look out for a satisfying twist which will keep fans, as well as Rebus newcomers, firmly on the edge of their seats.
Runs until 24 November 2018 | Image: Robert Day