"Format suitably condensed for stage"
by Debra Hall for remotegoat on 26/09/18

This is a Rebus instalment featuring three main characters from Ian Rankin’s crime thriller novels. A transition to stage for characters: John Rebus (Charles Lawson), Siobhan Clarke (Cathy Tyson) and ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty (John Stahl). This is a memory play created by Rankin and playwright Rona Munro, it is hugely character-driven and so the format works well.

Rebus hears the voice of young female victims of murderous crimes in his head. He is haunted by his memories. The fusion of the theatrics is quite simple in this production. Scenes take place: above, upon, and at the foot on ground level of a sweeping staircase. Basic theatrical techniques are used to help with back tracking the story to the early nineties and creating atmosphere at those many moments when Rebus is at odds with himself.

Key characters have substantial amounts to say and so the players have to put out some lengthy monologues and stretching dialogue. Understandably this requires expert timing. All three players manage to deliver lines so admirably and professionally and so be sympathetic rather than judging of those rare moments when it doesn’t quite work. It is delightful however, to see Charles Lawson away from TV soap world delivering a measured stage performance and some cracking lines.

For fans of the familiar narrative know that we do have the beating heart of the books; characteristically Rebus is the protagonist and his morality is fluctuating to fit the order of the day, while Clarke is perturbed by his unethical approaches to the crime solving. Cafferty is fiendish and unpredictable. Much of the shadowing and repetition that has made this format such a success for Rankin, not only in the original novels but on TV and Radio too, is apparent.

There will be renewed interest for sure in Rankin’s series of Rebus books because of the decision to bring these characters to life this way, because, even for those without prior knowledge of Rankin’s long-established body of work, seeing the play and reviewing the promotional information does a good job of revealing the format in a condensed way.

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