by Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson.
Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX To 19 October 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 10 Oct (+ Touch Tour 6.30pm), 12 Oct 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.15pm).
BSL Signed 16 Oct 7.45pm.
Captioned 19 Oct 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 8 Oct.
Runs 2hr 35mn One interval.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 September.
Well-mixed external shocks and internal surprises.
Some of the ‘thrillers’ I’ve endured ought to be actionable under the Trade Descriptions Act. Even the great Dame, Agatha Christie, was often leaden-paced with stage plots, unable to provide the narrative tension of her crime novels.
Recent decades have seen the post-Sleuth trend to games-playing, a kind of pass-the-parcel as characters set-up fake scenarios for each other.
This new thriller starts slow but builds to visceral grip and final physical danger to earn its name. The plotting is built around one essential question of guilt or innocence. It could be laboured but, pepped-up by a couple of dream sequences, gradually increases its grip as disparate elements slip into place.
Co-author Mark Thomson directs. A playwright as well as Royal Lyceum Artistic Director, he’s well aware of what works on stage. And, while there’s bound to be Ian Rankin readers seeking to detect his storytelling style and familiar police types among the characters, the story is well-structured for the theatre, while use of a very senior female police protagonist, Isobel McArthur, gives a different focus for the hard-bitten cynicism and scepticism of the male types around her.
So familiar are they, it becomes an aspect of plot whether the assertions and comments they make have some self-protecting motive. Yet even the police clichés are expertly played.
Maureen Beattie, increasingly a mainstay of modern Scottish theatre, is equally good as a police-officer thinking retirement, a woman who’s not given-up on sexual activity, and a tolerant, then increasingly anxious mother of a teenage daughter. In that truculent, self-confident role Sara Vickers has the confidence and brightness of someone who finds life, and sex, as easy as her mother finds things complicated.
And there’s a superbly-judged portrait of an imprisoned serial sex-killer from Philip Whitchurch, whose possible innocence troubles Isobel’s conscience. Danger and desperation surround him equally until the truth emerges.
With Euan McLaren’s video images of young women victims and Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting playing on them, the rotating walls of Francis O’Connor’s set are both practical (their sliding covered by Philip Pinsky’s atmospheric score), and suggest the changing perspectives within Isobel’s mind.
Isobel McArthur: Maureen Beattie.
Alexandra McArthur: Sara Vickers.
Alfred Chalmers: Philip Whitchurch.
Frank Bowman: Robert Gwilym.
Fergus McLintock: Ron Donachie.
Janice: Nicola Roy.
Drew/Young Man/Male Nurse: Jonathan Holt.
Female Nurse: Belle Jones.
Director: Mark Thomson.
Designer: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound/Composer: Philip Pinsky.
Video: Euan McLaren.
Fight director: Malcolm Shields.
Assistant director: Jo Rush.