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Theatre review: Rebus at the Opera House

The word ‘typecast’ must be as abhorrent to actors as the word ‘Macbeth’ is to…erm, well actors.

Having worked with a few actors on soaps in a past life, I’m aware of the frustrations some may feel when interviewed about previous roles, future roles, that many can’t see past the character they portray in living rooms, sometimes as many as six times per week. This is, of course, can be testament to their acting and three dimensional portrayal of said role.

To play a larger than life character – one whose accent and dialect is oft-quoted by even the most amateur of impressionists (yes, me) – surely the challenge is laid bare.

In last night’s performance of Rebus: Long Shadows, that challenge of diverting theatre-goers from his infamous Coronation Street incarnation,was more than met by Charles Lawson.

I hold my hands up and admit that I have never read the Rebus novels or seen the television series and so was coming at the character fresh. However, I don’t think that matters as that could only help me to come at the ‘actor Charles Lawson’ ‘fresh’.

No matter how I like to think I wouldn’t come at a production with pre-conceived ideas of how the characters were to be played, in the run up all I could think of was ‘Big Jim, Big Jim, Big Jim – I love Big Jim!’. And I think that’s quite fair enough. It is an actor’s previous role(s) which puts them on an audience’s radar and (assuming they’re an admirer of their work, of course), brings them to the next production they appear in.

All as long as you don’t attend a production/watch a programme/see a film expecting the actor and their infamous role to be one and the same thing.

However, if there had have been a danger of this last night (no matter how unconscious), it was quickly put paid to by the end of the first half.

The character John Rebus was created in the novels written by Ian Rankin, who, together with playwright Rona Munro, wrote Long Shadows especially for the stage.

Now retired, Rebus (Lawson) the Scottish, former detective is back to right the wrongs of crimes not yet solved, in particular the ‘cold case’ of the murder of 17 year old Maggie (Eleanor House), with crossovers to the more recent murder of teenager Angela (Dani Heron) – both actresses giving captivating and impassioned performances.

Nods to the past by way of the ethereal appearance of both victims on stage to represent the inner workings of Rebus’s mind, are moving, smartly executed and really quite chilling at times (apt given the time of year).

Charles Lawson gives phenomenal detective. The traits of the character and their portrayal range between troubled, angry, caring, sarcastic, jaded, passionate and funny…all perfectly complimentary to each other and each engaging and believable. It’s like he’s been playing this character all this life.

Along with the imposing yet charismatic portrayal of ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty by John Stahl and Cathy Tyson’s  Siobhan Clarke; a role performed with a clever balance of non-nonsense attitude along with a subtle but clear affection towards her former colleague, the entire ensemble work well together.

This is a great example of a whodunnit which is perfectly crafted towards the stage, both in terms of plot and set design, and assisted by the captivating performances of the actors who create an immediate engagement between the audience and the crimes to be solved, which lasts right upto to final curtain.

And just a thought – Charles Lawson, please reprise this role.

Rebus: Long Shadows is showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until Saturday 3 November. Please click here for more details.

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‘Mandy’ at HOME Mcr

Earlier in the week I told you about the brilliant FilmFear season at HOME Mcr until 31 October 2018.

Review on Mandy now in on sister blog What the Projectionist Saw and all I will say is two words: Nicolas Cage….

Next showing at HOME on Monday 5 November and Friday 9 November.

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HOME – it’s where the FilmFear is…

The third annual horror fest, FilmFear, returns to Manchester’s HOME this week – in association with Film4.

From 26 – 31 October, residents, visitors and all round horror fanatics from Manchester can enjoy 6 days of cult films, extreme cinema and an all round fright fest on the big screen.

With a mix of new and classic, audiences will have the chance to attack the Hallowe’en season like a Michael Myers attacking a babysitter, a bloodied prom queen attacking her classmates or a Jack Nicholson attacking a bathroom door.

Highlights from the new stable includes:

  • Everybody’s favourite human Nicolas Cage, sharing the screen with Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache in Mandy, a story of love, revenge and the supernatural (head back to the blog for my review of the film in the days to follow);
  • British film Possum, starring Sean Harris and  Alun Armstrong, which debuts the work of film-maker Matthew Holness who will be signing books before the screening and then returning afterwards to take part in a Q&A with audiences,
  • St. Agatha, the latest in a possibly one of my favourite ever named genres – Nunsploitation – as brought to us by filmmaker, Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV; and
  • Swedish title Videoman; a mystery thriller which, again, this blogger will be reviewing like a good’un shortly after the screening.

Audiences can also expect to revisit or even discover for the first time three vintage spine-tinglers (where have you been?), including:

  • The Fog from the puppet-master of horror, John Carpenter; and
  • The Evil Dead (possibly the most horror film title of all time).

For those not fortunate enough to have access to the cultural Manchester mecca that is HOME, the FilmFear season will also be returning to Film4, with a season of premieres and favourites, running for six nights from 26 – 31 October, including:

  • The Witch;
  • The Visit; and
  • Kaleidoscope – the psychological chiller which featured in last year’s programme at HOME.

For full details of FilmFear at HOME Mcr, including titles, dates and tickets, head to

For details of the Film4 line-up, head to

See you on the other side…