Fans of Rankin’s famous Edinburgh detective will be enthralled by Long Shadows, the first theatre production based on Ian Rankin’s character, DI John Rebus (retired). An unexpected illness meant that Charles Lawson’s understudy Neil McKinven stepped bravely into the breach to play Rebus, and even at last minute, his performance brought the curmudgeonly detective to life. In this production, we join the protagonist in his later years, with Rebus riddled with COPD, unkempt and struggling to find any joy in his retirement – in short – the Rebus that fans of his novels have come to love. McKinven reflects the character’s short temper and dark humour present throughout, trademark one-liners at all.
Set in a parallel universe (no sign of Brillo, Rebus’s dog in the later novels), where the retired Rebus is haunted by murdered young women he believes he failed decades before. A clever set design doubles as the archetypal brutal Edinburgh tenement stair and Rebus’s lonely living room, before becoming convincingly transformed into a plush penthouse works well. The ghostly figures of Rebus’s tormented mind bring the story to life, displaying his anguish in a physical way under well considered, shadowy lighting. Rankin’s and Rebus’s shared love of music features throughout the play, and is used well as the backdrop to the plot.
The highlight of the production is in the joy that comes from seeing Rebus and his old nemesis Cafferty clash again. Cafferty’s menacing charm, portrayed by the talented John Stahl – is almost Cray like, a well dressed, soulless villain with a cruel heart that in his winter years – is beginning to be peppered with regrets. The dialogue between the old adversaries is well written – a testament to Rona Munro’s talent in bringing these well known characters from page to stage.