Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In Rebus, Mr Ken Stott Gives A Good Impersonation Of A Middle-Aged Man Adrift In A City Of Hairdressers

The recent television adaptation of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus books has been deemed a success, as it gained higher ratings than a film by Mr Steven Spielberg, in which Mr Leonardo DiCaprio pretended to be a pilot.
Much credit has gone to Mr Ken Stott, the grim-faced actor who played Rebus. Mr Stott replaced Mr John Hannah, who looked like a plumber who had forgotten where the ballcock was kept. Certainly, Mr Stott gave a good impression of a middle-aged man, and at times he even resembled a policeman. His characterisation was slightly more subtle than it was in his excursion as Herr Hitler, during last year's regrettable ITV drama Young Adolf.
This Rebus story was written by Mr Daniel Boyle, whose form as the author of improbable television detectives includes Hamish Macbeth, in which Mr Robert Carlyle inhabited a parody of a Scottish picture-postcard world, along with a Scottie dog called Jock.
The mock-postcard is one kind of Scottish drama. The other is urban, and is best characterised by Taggart, in which a dour detective polices a sanitised version of the "mean city" seen so often in the plays of Mr Peter McDougall.
Taggart represented the Glasgow bias of the Scottish media, and never more so than when the drama took place in Edinburgh; a city of hairdressers and wine bars in which the haggard and monosyllabic Chief Inspector could never find comfort.
About 15 years ago, when the Taggart franchise seemed to be running out of steam, STV tried to re-position itself by launching an Edinburgh drama called The Advocates, starring the son of the "Scottish Soldier" Mr Andy Stewart, and the actress, Ms Rachel Weisz, who appeared naked in a bath. Other than that, the most memorable things about the drama were the scene in which the son of Mr Stewart took a picturesque drive around Salisbury Crags, and the fact that Charlotte Square was under siege from a persistent bagpiper. It was a vision of Edinburgh which would not have surprised Taggart.
Mr Rankin's Rebus stories blend the misanthropy of Taggart with the pub yarns of Mr Irvine Welsh. Edinburgh is viewed as a tough, pretty city with an unsightly underbelly: a paunch of crime. On television, Mr Rankin's vision is softened slightly, and the capital becomes, once again, a city of hairdressers and rich folk with interesting French windows. Mr Stott gets to wear the paunch.
There were, I am sorry to report, some awful scenes, most notably the one in which Rebus impressed a lady friend by breaking into the stadium of Hibernian FC and turning the floodlights on as she stood in the centre circle. The lady, played by the delightful Ms Sharon Small, was then required to utter the line: "Rebus - if you ever dreamed of scoring at Easter Road, dream no more."
I was confused, too, as to why Rebus, while standing in Rutland Square, would demand a car to take him to the Oxford Bar. Even if this was a walk of more than 100 yards, the traffic restrictions in Edinburgh are of such complexity that the drive would have taken him halfway to Harthill.
And, yes, the piper from The Advocates was still there, wheezing away.


David Farrer said...

I work in Charlotte Square 2 days a week and get the bus home from beside Rutland Square. It takes me around 30 minutes to make the 100 yard journey to the bus stop but that's because I go via the Oxford Bar!

Anonymous said...

I was always under the impression that the locks on Easter Road were so placed as to force one to break out, rather than in, and that to turn on the floodlights took a box of matches rather than a lightswitch. Then again, I am nostalgic for the days of Ally Brazil, whose handsome visage was best viewed without lights of any brightness at all