Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Matt Forrest
After appearing in 19 novels, numerous audio books, and a TV series, it seems long overdue for writer Ian Rankin’s most celebrated creation, Inspector Rebus to make it to the stage, and boy was it worth the wait.
Rankin and playwright Rona Munro have created a brand new case for the now retired Rebus (Charles Lawson). He spends his time trying to stay off the ‘fags and the booze’, but one drug he still cannot shake is that of good, old-fashioned policing. A chance encounter with Heather (Eleanor House), a young woman whose mother was murdered some 17 years ago brings up some ghosts of the past, forcing the ‘old gunslinger’ out of retirement and maybe a chance to exorcise some of his own personal demons as well.
Haunted by these past victims, this particular cold case takes Rebus back into Edinburgh’s criminal world, landing at the door of his old nemesis, crime kingpin ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty (John Stahl). In addition, Rebus must contend with Siobhan Clarke (Cathy Tyson), a friend and former colleague who wants to make sure a case from 25 years ago doesn’t come back to haunt them both.
Rebus: Long Shadows is almost the perfect storm of a production, fast paced, slick, and razor-sharp script with some stinging, pitch black dialogue. Lawson is excellent as the no nonsense troubled former detective, who will do anything to get the right result, even if it means breaking the rules. Stahl is on superb form as Cafferty, full of charm and menace; he certainly makes for a worthy adversary. The interactions between the two are natural and fully demonstrate the respect and loathing they have for one another.
Cathy Tyson is equally as good, if somewhat underutilized as Siobhan Clarke: her character seems the weakest in the triangular relationship between Rebus, Clarke and Cafferty. The supporting cast are on fine form with Eleanor House and Dani Heron as the ghosts of Rebus’s past plaguing him at every turn: whilst Neil McKinven morphs into every other character, from Barman to criminal low life, he plays them all: enjoyable are the scenes between Mckinven and Lawson, where Rebus is shaking him down for information: authentic, believable and filled with humour.
Occasionally the story becomes a little contrived, but there are a few neat twists and turns: this isn’t a ‘whodunnit’ in the traditional sense, more a tale of redemption, morality, and growing old in an ever-changing world.
Ti Green’s multi-purpose stage design is outstanding: it changes effortlessly from luxury apartment, to dingy back street boozer. It does a fine job of evoking images of Edinburgh’s snickets and passageways: if anything, you want it to be more dank, mysterious and atmospheric.
This is a first-class production with actors at the top of the game: Rebus may be long in the tooth, but this production could certainly teach other murder/mysteries a thing or two.
Rebus: Long Shadow is at the Manchester Opera House till 3rd November 2018. Tickets are available here.