Review | Rebus Long Shadows

By Max Modell

Rebus: Long Shadow offers a gripping addition to Ian Rankin’s Rebus detective novels. While it is a very different beast to the novels, the complexities of Rebus’s character are not neglected and the show has a a strong psychological appeal which not only examines the morality of Rebus’s decisions, but also the personal toll it takes on his life. It addresses the question “What is the cost of justice?”.

For the purpose of the play, Rankin opted to develop a new story rather than adapting an old one, a process which can be fraught with complications. This was done in conjunction with Scottish playwright Rona Munro, providing the expertise to capture such a complex narrative with a limited cast of characters, number of scenes and number of sets. This is a decision which paid off. The play did not reflect that of a novice to the form, having a great physicality to the characterisations and relationship dynamic which can often be lost in exposition heavy whodunnits. This was helped by a fantastic cast and electric dialogue, but I got the impression that the quality started on the page. Furthermore, on top of the psychological elements, the whodunnit element of the story is very effective, keeping the audience guessing with just enough twist and turns to ensure you can never truly get too comfortable.

Any problems with the show were indicative of its form rather than the talent on display. When adapting a literary character there are inevitable pitfalls which must be overcome. One of the most significant of these is interpreting the interior monologue of a book which allows the reader to live inside the head of the character. In the Rebus novel, a large portion of the narrative motivation is contained in the thoughts of the protagonist, as he connects the dots in his mind and tackles his internal demons. Replicated in the play, Rebus is  haunted by the ghosts of the people he could not achieve justice for. This proved a practical narrative devise to address this problem with the translation. However, I could not help but feel that the whole concept was rather conceited, lacking nuance and at times feeling rather heavy-handed, continually reiterating a point that the audience were acutely aware of. Yet, I still struggle to find great fault in this, because I cannot conceive of a narrative device which would have illustrated Rebus’s internal demons for effectively.

Overall, Rebus: Long Shadow is a fantastic addition to the Rebus cannon. It is well worth a watch, for fans and non-fans alike, offering a very satisfying whodunnit combined with a three-dimensional portrayal of its lead.