20th Feb, 2019

Still some case work to be done on Birmingham Rep's new crime drama

CRIME drama has never been more popular or in more abundance than it is on our television screens currently and it is therefore quite a canny move for the REP to commission and produce a new thriller for the stage.

The choice of Ian Rankin’s ‘Rebus’ is also a good one – recalling the masterful Ken Stott in the role brings back many happy memories.

Long Shadows is a new play, adapted especially for the stage by Rona Munro from Rankin’s words. Add to this an award winning director in Robin Lefevre and some well-known actors it should sparkle. Sadly on the opening night it was like a glass of flat champagne.

Why? Well firstly, act one is very wordy and very static. Actors facing each other with hands in pockets, lines said upstage, dialogue disjointed and often inaudible particularly from Charles Lawson whose Scottish mumble does nothing to endear him in the early all-important scenes. Cathy Tyson is an actress of renown but sadly she puts in a performance that actually lacks depth and credibility.

The split-level set by designer Ti Green comprises a huge winding staircase representing the tenements of Edinburgh. This leads up to street level but creates a dead spot at the top where almost every word is lost. Come the interval there is little of merit to discuss.

Mercifully act one is short and act two is a much better piece all round. The story at last unfolds and actually becomes interesting. Best of all we have a tour-de-force performance from John Stahl who shows how to deliver lines, sell his character and involve the audience. He is big in statue and performance as the arch villain of the piece ‘Big Ger’ Cadety.

In essence the script could do with less words and more action – currently it seems more suited to the radio than the stage.

It lacks firm direction with some glaring staging mistakes not usually seen on this hallowed Rep stage. Even the small amount of fight business is badly executed.

It is here until the October 6, then goes on a long national tour so there are opportunities aplenty to put things right.

I’m sure with some rewriting, redirection and a cast sharing the energy that John Stahl exudes the champagne can indeed sparkle.

Visit https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/rebus-long-shadows.html for more information and tickets.

Review by Euan Rose.


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