A fully immersive adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s shockingly grotesque Trainspotting… sound frighteningly intense? I assure you, the reality of this production is far worse.
Following a run at the Kings Head Theatre, and huge success at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, this In Your Face Theatre and Kings Head Theatre collaborative production has picked up enough steam to head off on a UK tour. Luckily for us however, it is making a quick pit stop back at the Kings Head before doing so.
Prepare to be disgusted, abused, traumatised, offended, terrified, heartbroken, shouted at, aroused and above all completely enraptured. The experience starts as soon as you step into the theatre, or should I say rave. Immediately you are harassed by a gurning faced Scot trying to talk to you about anything and everything, and bustled to your seat by an equally spangled girl. You will sit wherever there is a decent space, there are only a few actual seats to be had, the rest will sit on the floor in various places around the room. In a very Brechtian way you are made to feel uncomfortable throughout. This also gives the highly effective impression of a squatter’s crack den. Don’t worry though, wherever you end up you definitely won’t miss out on any action.
Once everyone is in their seat and they give clearance we get Darude’s “Sandstorm” blaring out, to really get us in the mood. The ensuing seventy five minutes feature particular highlights from Welsh’s novel in immense style and ingenuity. Moments such as, the toilet in which Renton loses his suppositories, that has since become an iconic scene in the film adaptation, are remodeled with absolute genius here, ensuring a level of repulsion equal to that evoked in the film. Thanks to director Adam Spreadbury-Maher each scene is developed with so much finite detail, but somehow seems completely erratic, offering some truly riveting theatre. It must be said that the detail and energy in which these scenes are portrayed mean that relatively, not a great deal of the plot is covered. Coupled with the thick Scottish accents mean that it can, at times, be difficult to follow the narrative. However, this truly is by-the-by, there is so much to be absorbed by all the senses that you hardly feel left without.
Full credit to the entire cast who attack this show with relentless conviction, and some real, genuine performances. Special mention must however, go to Gavin Ross playing the lead skag ed’ Renton. Living up to Ewan McGregor’s performance was always going to be a huge undertaking, but Ross’ is incomparable, simply because he makes every inch of that character his own, and then rubs it right in everyone’s face without apology… Literally.
What’s so remarkable about this show is that, although it shares a name and story with such an iconic film, it is still a completely original interpretation. It stands with triumph as it’s own separate entity and captures the true essence of Welsh’s book masterfully.
P.s. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting a bit messy.
Reviewed by Bob Galereux
Photo: Christopher Tribble
Trainspotting is playing at the Kings Head Theatre until the 27th November. Get tickets here