Ian Rankin working on first play for Royal Lyceum

Ian Rankin is writing his first play. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Ian Rankin is writing his first play. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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HE MADE his name bringing the dark underbelly of the Athens of the North to the page with his gritty Inspector Rebus novels.

Now, more than 25 years after publishing his first novel, Ian Rankin has revealed he is turning his hand to his first stage play.

Crime writer Ian Rankin has turned his talents to drama. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Crime writer Ian Rankin has turned his talents to drama. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

To be premiered at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh later this year, Dark Road will feature

veteran Scottish actress Maureen Beattie playing the fictional first chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police.

Although the play, set in modern-day Edinburgh, is having to be hastily rewritten to reflect the creation of a single police force for the whole country, it will centre on a recently retired head of the force.

Rankin is co-writing the story – which will look at how Isobel McArthur is stuggling to write her memoirs, which involve interviewing a notorious serial killer she helped jail 25 years ago – with the theatre’s artistic director, Mark Thomson.

The play will be unveiled in September, less than two months before Rankin is due to unveil his latest novel, which will see the return of Rebus.

Rankin said: “It’s all come about because Mark Thomson collared me, basically. He knows me anyway, as a punter, because I come to the Lyceum a lot.

“I did a couple of radio plays, many years ago, but I had never really thought about writing for the theatre, because I wasn’t sure that the kind of fiction that I write would work.

“We started talking about how it is a study of character and tension between two central characters, a sort of cat and mouse game that you do get in a lot of thrillers, and that can work very well on the stage, because the actors can lift the characters and story with them.

“Instead of starting with a Rebus book and trying to turn it into a stage play, we just started with a clean sheet and wondered what sort of crime story we could tell in an hour and a half.

“I came up with the storyline and the central characters and a wee bit of storyboarding, and Mark actually structured it into a script and showed me how it could work on the stage, because I’ve never done that, so it was great to have him there.

“But at the moment it is only on the page, that’s the worrying thing. It’s not finished yet. I don’t know when it will be – probably half an hour before it goes on stage.”

Thomson said he wanted to try to capture the “dark pleasure” of crime fiction with Dark Road, which will run for several weeks from 25 September.

He added: “We made a leap and thought we would see if we could make it work and that is what we have done.”


ARTISTIC supremo Mark Thomson believes the Royal Lyceum’s upcoming season offers something for everyone:

• Dark Road, by Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson, September 25-October 19;

• Crime and Punishment, From the Novel by Fyodor Dosteovsky, October 22- November 9;

• A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Adapted for the stage by Neil Duffield, November 26- January 4, 2014;

• Long Days Journey Into Night, by Eugene O’ Neill, January 17-February 8, 2014;

• Private Lives, by Noël Coward, February 14-March 8, 2014;

• Union, by Tim Barrow, March 19-April 12, 2014;

• Pressure, by David Haig, April 30-May 24, 2014