Along the cobbled streets of Edinburgh, ghosts shall always lurk; even though the closes may change – memories wander the alleys of this city. Now, for retired Inspector Rebus, these shadows are drawing closer. In a tale about past failures – reanimating themselves onstage to serve as shades of violence – retribution and the neverending pursuit of justice, Rebus: Long Shadows sees Ian Rankin’s creation finally brought onto the main stage – a debut that, for some, was long overdue.
Charles Lawson expertly captures the character of Rebus at the core of Rankin’s novels. He follows what he knows, even as the world attempts to force his methods to change. Lawson is a Rebus who, in the world of regulations, trusts his instinct – with some under-handed tactics of course. His interactions with Neil McKinven and John Stahl feel natural, reminiscent of Rebus’s signature style. Lawson channels the Rebus we know – the man who is willing to get something done, with the threat of being barred being of no consequence to him.
Although it is based on Rankin’s words, Rona Munro is the playwright responsible for Rebus: Long Shadows’ script. Despite the talent of both writers, the result of this collaboration is not worthy to be under either of their signatures. Tired clichés little the script, with a predictable climax and denouement. At first, the spectres of Rebus’ failures eerily haunt the inspector, however their constant appearances begin to outweigh the tension.
Few find as much glee in evil, than that of Stahl as Edinburgh’s crowned kingpin of crime ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty. Stahl channels Cafferty as a larger-than-life, Triumpian villain – safe behind his penthouse glass. It takes a moment longer for Cathy Tyson to fill the role of Siobhan Clarke, though her characters drags Rebus into the new generation of female harassment and #MeToo awareness. With a determined stride, the role unfolds as the climax lurks ever closer.
What Rebus: Long Shadows ultimately lacks is the venom that characterises Rankin’s series. Rebus, above his counterparts, has a deep sense of acrimony. There are ways to solve the issue, so long as questions would not be asked. What is more, anyone familiar with Rankin’s original novels or short stories knows Rebus has a visceral sense of atmosphere. The smokey guts of Edinburgh are laid out before us, built upon as the pages turn. In the transition to the stage, however, this atmosphere is diluted. Ti Green‘s set design is remarkable, yet at times feels too grand for what should be ground in grit.
Rebus will always be at home in Edinburgh. Serving on home turf, the show was met with rapturous applause. On this occasion, much of that applause was for McKinven who, after unexpected circumstances, had to take over from Lawson. In the final half hour, McKinven delivered Rebus with gusto, valiantly carrying the torch with (hopefully) a tremendous sense of pride. For the rest of the run, we hope that Lawson is well enough to return to the role he convincingly portrayed.