This Re­bus doesn’t do real jus­tice to Rankin’s writ­ing

The Scotsman - - Reviews -

Re­bus – Long Shad­ows

King’s The­atre, Ed­in­burgh


THERE was high drama on stage at the King’s The­atre on Mon­day; but sadly, it came from the fact that Charles Law­son – vet­eran Corona­tion Street star, now play­ing the re­tired John Re­bus in this new play by Ian Rankin and Rona Munro – was taken ill at the be­gin­ning of the play’s sec­ond half, and had to be helped off stage by his fel­low ac­tors, af­ter apol­o­gis­ing to the au­di­ence, and say­ing that he felt faint.

It was a des­per­ately sad turn of events, and all Ed­in­burgh, and fans ev­ery­where must wish Law­son the quick­est pos­si­ble re­cov­ery. In truth, though, it’s doubt­ful whether he could have done much, in the re­main­ing 40 min­utes of the show, to re­deem a the­atre event that was hardly strik­ing dra­matic sparks at its Ed­in­burgh premier; and the fi­nal roar of ap­plause that greeted Law­son’s un­der­study Neil Mck­in­ven - who came on script in hand to com­plete the show, af­ter play­ing sev­eral mi­nor char­ac­ters ear­lier in the play – seemed more to do with the fact that he had risen bravely to a un­ex­pected chal­lenge, than with any other as­pect of the show.

In essence, Long Shad­ows – pre­miered last month at Birm­ing­ham Rep – is a clas­sic late Re­bus mys­tery, in which the re­tired de­tec­tive in­spec­tor is haunted by mem­o­ries of past vic­tims whose killers he failed to hunt down, and who can’t re­sist ven­tur­ing out into Ed­in­burgh’s crim­i­nal un­der­world in an ef­fort to right past wrongs.

What we mainly learn from it, though, is that Rankin’s rich sense of Ed­in­burgh as a com­plete and rapidly chang­ing city go­ing about its busi­ness does not eas­ily sur­vive the tran­si­tion from page to stage; and that Re­bus’s in­tense imag­ined con­ver­sa­tions with past vic­tims look fairly ridicu­lous

when those girls cease to be vividly-de­scribed in­ner voices, and be­come real ac­tors, march­ing around the stage de­mand­ing their rights, and help­ing to shift the fur­ni­ture. What emerges, with Rankin’s com­pelling prose largely stripped away, is an over-fa­mil­iar and of­ten cliched tale of a 1970s-trained cop still stick­ing to his old val­ues, while recog­nis­ing that the world has changed; and of an im­plau­si­bly wicked vil­lain – John Stahl, in glo­ri­ous form – an­nounc­ing his Pu­ti­nesque and Trumpian phi­los­o­phy of might-is-right from a pent­house flat over­look­ing the Mead­ows. The di­a­logue is heavy on ex­po­si­tion and cop show cliches, the treat­ment of women – un­til an ab­so­lutely im­plau­si­ble fi­nal twist – clas­sic cops-or-vic­tims stuff. And although fe­male co-stars Cathy Tyson, Eleanor House and Dani Heron de­liver pow­er­ful per­for­mances as cop and vic­tims re­spec­tively, Robin Le­fevre’s pro­duc­tion limps to a long­drawn-out con­clu­sion that even Ti Green’s im­pres­sively bleak ten­e­ment de­sign, and a fi­nal bril­liant shaft of blood-red light from the late, great light­ing de­signer Chahine Yavroyan, can­not lift above the or­di­nary.


King’s The­atre, Ed­in­burgh, un­til to­day

Charles Law­son plays re­tired de­tec­tive Re­bus in a rather cliched cop show

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