Rebus: Long Shadows at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

5-10 November 2018


Reviewed by Jayne Wiggins

I have to admit, being a fan of the TV series Rebus, I was a little nervous about how this character would transfer to stage. I shouldn’t have been worried, after all, the theatre are littered with detective stories! Ian Rankin’s writing is as good on stage as it is on screen and in print.

Knowing the cold and gloomy Scottish streets the character stories are set in, I wanted trench coats and warm clothes on stage. I got it. The scene was set with simple costume and lighting, and deserved to be on the upper stage of the Derngate Theatre. However, the intimacy of the Royal lower stage gave an authenticity to this show which allowed the use of simple props and clever sets to give the audience a window into the thoughts of every character on stage. The use of stairs to elevate the ghosts behind a curtain on back lighting gave the ghosts an eeriness and ethereal personalities without going full out haunting!

Rebus’ set was a simple affair with a chair, his customary glass of something, and a few filing cabinets. The dark and dingy lighting gave an air of gloom and depression to the once robust but now retired detective. Without a great deal of manoeuvring, the lighting changed the set completely when well lit to show other apartments and situations. I particularly liked the hidden bar scene which presented from the wall during once scene.

Rebus: Long Shadows
Cathy Tyson as Siobhan Clarke and Charles Lawson as Rebus
Image Credit: Robert Day

The story opens on the innocent looking Heather, played by Eleanor House, who first stirs Rebus’ protective instincts as she sits awaiting her drug dealer boyfriend. This chance encounter with the daughter of an unsolved murder victim leads Rebus into territories he thought he had left behind. As he warns off the boyfriend and advises the young girl of the dangers of how she looks and who she is meeting, Heather tells him she knows how mad the streets are. She was only a baby when her young mum was murdered and the police never caught the killer. Fired by memories of this case he was never able to solve, Rebus pulls out his old case files and finds the file about young Maggie who was killed during his time as a detective. Shout out to Eleanor House for her portrayal as both the young murder victim and her teenage daughter.

It would be wrong to give the twists and turns away as that is what made this show such a success in my mind. Charles Lawson is a thoroughly believable, grumpy retired detective! His work is well known on screen but he brought this character to full life on stage.

As the show goes on with twists and turns and another cold case to be solved, the audience was mixed between realising what had happened all those years ago alongside Rebus’ recognition, and those of us who were shocked and surprised at the ending!

Both ‘ghosts’ – Dani Heron and Eleanor House, gave eerie performances with their synchronised talking, Neil McKinven’s versatility playing 5 different characters really shows off the talented actor he is. John Stahl was intimidating as Big Ger Cafferty and I was glad to see him get some comeuppance in the end. Cathy Tyson was powerful as a young detective try to make her mark. ALL actors gave this intimate show the power of a full character set with such a small amount of actors.

If you are a fan of crime drama, on or off screen, this is certainly a show not to be missed.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

Rebus: Long Shadows is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 5-10 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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