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Fringe Online 2020

Rebus: The Lockdown Blues

National Theatre of Scotland

Genre: Fringe Online Theatre, Solo Performance

Venue: National Theatre of Scotland: Scenes for Survival


Low Down

John Rebus has retired to his kitchen. In there he muses upon the effects of being alone with his thoughts and his life as we are taken through his routine which includes taking his dog, Brillo out and visits from former colleague Siobhan. He misses the wee bit of chat that comes from being in his usual haunt – the pub. Whilst Siobhan clearly would like him to put pen to paper and write his memoirs, he is settling to a life of TED talk and disappointment.


If there is a 21st Century holy trinity of a perfect Scottish artistic storm could it be Ian Rankin, Brian Cox and Cora Bisset? Writer to actor to director, this is an exemplary piece that shows how good writing can give an artist a platform, how an exceptional artist can provide a director with raw beauty and a director can sculpt this into the portrait of a character that tells far more than any page would allow; but I may be biased.

I have loved the Rankin character for years. The tales of his passion for the Hibees, the dropping into the Oxford Bar and the debate over who should play him on the small screen has been part of my annual routine for donkeys ages. Don’t get me wrong I don’t hang about Waterstones waiting for the latest volume telling us once again that Rebus may once again be drawn out of retirement but the character has been so well drawn that it should daunt any actor asked to take him on. But it’s a gift in the right hands.

Despite Rankin’s one foray onto the stage that was not wholly successful with his irascible rogue cop, this has found its feet. It is a perfect stage for Rebus as disappointment with all around is a commonly held passion in all of our country so who better than the man who hounds disappointment with verve to guide us?

To then cast the actor who was the first to play Hannibal Lector is to me, quite inspired. Cox gives us the essence of the man and if the script found its feet, he has found Rebus’ hands. Cox plays the ticks, the looks, the sudden thoughts just as the cup comes to the lips and the gestures that have been part of my internal viewing pleasure for years as I read each chapter. Cox manages this in such a way that simply gives us this man; a character and a window on his soul.

None of this makes any sense unless there is a director who can take all that they are given and have an overview that is more than a safe pair of hands. Rebus needs jeopardy and whilst his excitement may simply be limited to a daily visit from Siobhan and a wee bit chat on the stairs, Bisset can see how the environment and the visuals need also to be in synch with the script and acting. This she does so well and keeps us and Cox on singular toes throughout.

I kept this as a treat to watch and it was an exceptional one to have kept. I may be biased but I can tell you, I am not far wrong when I say that this was almost worth lockdown to have; almost.