Along with a gaggle of elderly ladies with perms I attended a matinee performance of the theatrical debut of Ian Rankin’s stage play Dark Road (2013) at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Yes that’s right a stage play and not a movie, surprise, surprise, well it’s my blog and if I want to ramble about a play……….
Rankin, who co-wrote the theatrical production with the Lyceums Artistic Director Mark Thomson, is best known for the Inspector Rebus novels. This tightly plotted psychological thriller still involves the Edinburgh police force but further up the pecking order in fact our main character is the first female Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police Isobel McArthur played by Maureen Beattie the award-winning actress of both stage and screen.
Less a whodunit more did-he-really-do-it the crimes are in fact in the past. As the play opens we find that Isobel McArthur is about to retire after 30 years in the force and plans to write a book about her police career. She intends to feature the serial killer she helped put away 25 years ago. Alfred Chalmers (British stage, film, and television actor Philip Whitchurch) conviction for the bizarre and gruesome murders of four young women was based on some rather dubious forensic evidence and it was this case that has haunted our female Chief Constable ever since. Raking up the past does not suit her ex lover and college Frank Bowman (Robert Gwilym) or her ex boss Fergus McLintock, (Dundee born Ron Donachie who can be seen along side James McAvoy in Filth 2012) known as Black Fergus because of his mood swings, who returns to the police station for a farewell drink. Also not happy about her mother regurgitating the case is Alexandra McArthur for reasons that are to become abundantly clear.
Watching a play is far more intimate than watching a movie especially if you have a decent seat not to far from the front, almost like seeing every thing in 3D. Obviously there are restrictions but these are very well compensated for in the plays production. At The Lyceum there is a rotating stage that allows good uses of scenery change and also we at times get two half scenes to form a setting. Another thing I noticed is the clever use of recorded material to push the narrative. The acting seems more personal than the big screen, almost over acted to compensate for no close up camera work but it was superbly performed including the supporting cast with Jonathan Holt convincingly playing three roles! It astonishes me how actors can remember all the lines especially Maureen Beattie who was on stage for the best part of 140 minutes. Yes I was impressed particularly with how convincing the whole thing was. Dark Road will be going on tour after its run in Edinburgh finishes on the 19th October, try and catch it your find it a rewarding experience.
|Ian Rankin at the Lyceum.|