DESPITE the unexpected drama as Charles Lawson, in the title role, had to leave the stage shortly into the second act due to illness, the Scottish premiere of Ian Rankin’s Rebus: Long Shadows received rapturous applause on its opening night.
KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street
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As two cold cases come back to haunt the aging Edinburgh copper, now retired and in his late-60s, both tie in with an ongoing investigation by his one-time side-kick Siobhan Clarke, now a DI.
Adapted by playwright Rona Munro, the three story-lines merge smoothly in this bleak tale of murder and the fight for justice.
Rebus is a man of secrets, one of which is about to come home to roost as he again clashes with his nemesis, local gangster Big Ger Cafferty, played with all the sinister threat and affected confidence of a modern-day Charles Endell Esq by John Stahl. It’s a show-stealing turn that fizzes with underlying violence and malice.
In the title role, Lawson is impressive. His world-weary Rebus may have mellowed but retains his vitality, fight and curiosity.
Cathy Tyson, meanwhile, brings an unflinching stillness to DI Siobhan Clarke in what is a strangely staid performance.
Ti Green’s simple brutalist set design, both austere and gritty, provides the perfect level of darkness for ghosts of Rebus’ past to manifest themselves, even if using the long dead murder victims to drive the narrative becomes grating in time.
Nonetheless, so far so good. This is a good, sturdy, engaging piece of theatre.
Then, 20 minutes into the second act, Lawson, best known for playing Jim McDonald in Corrie, dried and asked the prompt for a ‘line’.
With a voice from the wings relaying a line to him, Lawson made another attempt to continue but again lost his place. He apologised and tried to continue once more, before looking at the audience and saying, “I think I’m going to faint,” at which point he was assisted off stage by his co-stars.
After a break of around 10 minutes, the play continued with understudy Neil McKinven taking up the role with script in hand. Stahl quickly normalising the situation by resetting props on stage with a knowing nod to the audience.
Prior to taking ill the Irishman had impressed with his Edinburgh accent. A statement from the show’s producers revealed that doctors had advised Lawson not perform last night adding, ‘Mr Lawson will be back on stage as soon as possible.’
Run ends Saturday