John Rebus (Ron Donachie) may be retired from the police force, but old ghosts – and old cases – continue to haunt him. The culmination of a twenty-five year investigation intended to put the notorious murderer Mordaunt behind bars looks set to be compromised by Rebus’ rash action from several decades ago. Added to this, he becomes obsessed with solving a cold-case murder ….
This afternoon’s performance of Rebus: Long Shadows saw understudies stepping into two key roles – Dani Heron as Rebus’ protégée Siobhan Clarke (replacing Cathy Tyson) and Andy Paterson as crime kingpin and Rebus’ nemesis ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty (replacing John Stahl).
Whilst the indisposition of the ‘name’ actors was initially slightly disappointing, I have no complaints with either Heron and Paterson, who were both excellent.
Paterson’s performance was especially fascinating since he appears to be a very different character type to John Stahl. Whilst I suspect that Cathy Tyson’s performance wouldn’t have been too dissimilar to Dani Heron’s, I’m slightly intrigued as to how Stahl would have tackled the role of Cafferty.
Presumably he would have been more physically imposing (as well as being a similar age to Rebus) but the younger Paterson’s take on the character was very appealing – a louche playboy encased in an ivory tower, with only Sheena Easton’s greatest hits for company.
Dani Heron’s DI Clarke was equally well-played – her gradual disenchantment with Rebus, for example – and whilst it wasn’t the largest part (one key scene in the first act, more of interest in act two) Heron was certainly good value.
Ellen Bannermen and Eleanor House operated as a ghostly chorus, two long dead victims pleading for justice. This probably would have worked better had they’d been used more sparingly – when they pop up for the tenth or so time to berate the whisky-sodden Rebus you do get the feeling that you’ve seen and heard it all before.
Ron Donachie provided a solid centre to the play as John Rebus. Pretty much onstage throughout, he pitched his performance just right (this Rebus might be physically declining but still possesses the cunning of a street-fighter).
Rona Munro’s adaptation of Ian Rankin’s original story is a brisk, efficient affair. There are some twists and turns along the way, although no major shocks. A decent way to kick off my 2019 theatre-going, Rebus: Long Shadows doesn’t have the same depth as Ian Rankin’s novels but is still a decent crime story in its own right.