Rose Theatre, Kingston – until 16 March 2019
Ian Rankin brings his famous detective to the stage in this atmospheric if slightly thin play adaptation.
It is always a difficult task to take a beloved book character and place them on stage – fans of the book or character will want to see plenty of faithful representations of situations and details while newcomers need all of the relevant information that they haven’t got from having no knowledge of the character or story. Which is definitely something that this play and production struggles to deal with.
Detective Inspector John Rebus has retired from the police – but when the daughter of a murder victim shows up at his flat, he decides to look into the case once more. But along the way he struggles with secrets that he has kept hidden that could cause another case and murder trial to collapse completely.
The main issue with this production is the way in which Rona Munro’s adaptation has kept the plot overly complicated and not cutting through some of Ian Rankin’s details that are fine for a book but come across as too complicated on stage. The whole story feels less about solving a crime than Rebus being tormented by his past actions. It also comes across as empty of any intensity that makes it difficult to really care about the outcome for any of the characters – summed up with a bit of an anti-climatic confrontation scene between Rebus and Cafferty. However, the dialogue is sharp and even at times witty, offering up many twists and turns to help keep the audience guessing.
Robin Lefevre’s production works quite well in keeping the audience thoroughly engaged with the story unfolding in front of them. He has undoubtedly created an atmospheric production thanks to Ti Green’s imposing and bleak set design that is flexible in the changing of scenes (although some change of settings could be made clearer) while Chahine Yavroyan and Simon Bond’s lighting beautifully highlights the key moments of torment for Rebus when confronted by the ghosts of the two murder victims ngela (Dani Heron) and Maggie (Eleanor House).
There is also nice chemistry between all of the cast, with Ron Donachie providing a strong performance as a tormented Rebus but equally not someone to be messed around with as one witness he questions finds out. Cathy Tyson as DI Siobhan Clarke is solid support – conveying the character’s sense of loyalty and eventually devastation as she discovers the secret from Rebus’s past that threatens a murder trial with straight forward conviction. John Stahl as the villainous but charismatic Big Ger Cafferty gets the balance between the character’s charming but ruthless nature just right.
Overall, Rebus: Long Shadows is a bit of a mixed bag, lacking in intensity and a plot which is overly complicated to combine two different cases – but a production which is suitably atmospheric and engaging to watch unfold.