Ian Rankin play caught up in real crime drama

Jo Rush, assistant director on Dark Road. Picture: Lesley Martin
Jo Rush, assistant director on Dark Road. Picture: Lesley Martin
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YOU might not think it is the first call the police would make after receiving reports of a violent crime.

But Edinburgh in August is a strange place – to the extent that officers checked with a local theatre group that it wasn’t them before switching on the blues and twos.

Detectives knew the Royal Lyceum Theatre crew was constructing gruesome scenes with fake bloodied bodies around the Capital to prepare for Ian Rankin’s first play, and so picked up the phone when the calls started coming in.

On this occasion, however, it quickly emerged that the incident was a crisis not a drama and teams were dispatched.

Ruth Butterworth, the theatre’s general manager, said: “We got a call from a police officer asking us if we were filming in a particular location because they had an incident.

“They thought it might have been us but I told them we were elsewhere at the time. I don’t think the police knew we were in three locations. The officer called back later to say it was a real incident they were attending.”

The decision to call the theatre group is more understandable when you consider the reaction the group’s activity’s have created, with passers-by initially thinking they have stumbled on a genuine crime scene.

The play’s assistant director Jo Rush, who said she is sworn to secrecy over the locations of the “murders” to keep the play spoiler-free, said they had been causing quite a stir.

“We were building up a case history for the crimes and went to various places across the city to shoot. We are trying to generate a real sense of the murders actually happening in Edinburgh, which is so important in Ian Rankin’s work.

“We were rolling out crime scene tape and putting the body out, which was a model but looked very realistic. There were a lot of tourists around and some were getting quite worried that they had stumbled across a murder.

“The locations chosen around the city are not the obvious tourist spots which anyone immediately recognises.

“Ian Rankin has always being great about creating a sense that these horrific murders are being committed where you live and we’ve tried to capture that. In the play, there are boxes of files, as you would expect in an old case, and the photos will be part of that.”

The play, which has been penned by Rebus creator Rankin and the Royal Lyceum artistic director, Mark Thomson, tells the story of a serial killer jailed for the murders of four young girls in Edinburgh and his battle of wits with the policewoman who caught him. Rankin has previously told how “it’s as much Mark Thomson’s play as mine”.

“I came up with the story, Mark did dialogue, then we brainstormed changes and characterisation etc.”

No-one from Police Scotland was able to comment.

Rankin in rehearsals

CRIME author Ian Rankin has revealed he has been keeping a close eye on rehearsals for his first ever play.

The author has been working on the script with Royal Lyceum artistic director Mark Thomson, and together the pair have crafted a play based in a disturbing world of serial killers which the author hopes will prove a hit.

And after watching the cast - including Scottish actress Maureen Beattie as Isobel McArthur, a police chief haunted by the case of a serial killer she put behind bars 25 years earlier - go through their paces, the author said he was fascinated by the work.

He tweeted: “First week of #DarkRoad rehearsals done. Fascinating process.”