Iconic is not a strong enough word for novelist Irvine Welsh’s generation-defining masterpiece, Trainspotting. His open minded depiction of heroin addiction has stood the test of time but Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s theatrical adaptation is Trainspotting for the twenty-first century and for those of us who missed the hype of the book and film in the 1990s.
This is not theatre for the faint-hearted.
Disgusting, brutal, violent, visceral and unapologetic, Trainspotting Live is immersive theatre like I’ve never seen before. The audience do not simply watch; instead we experience Trainspotting. As we entered The Tunnel at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 90s techno was pumping and the cast was pinging across the room; dancing, gurning and eye-rolling.
From the moment our tickets were exchanged for glow sticks and we were offered protective earplugs, we are in an Edinburgh rave and In Your Face Theatre will do just what they say on the tin - get in your face with their immersive staging.
This is not theatre for the faint-hearted and if you’re sat in an unlucky seat you might find yourself dripping with toilet water or faeces and pushing an arse crack out of your face, as cast members rummage through toilets looking for opium and inject heroin throughout.
As it races through Welsh’s novel to the finish line, it is grim and grotesque, but boy, is it glorious too. Spreadbury-Maher’s staging envelopes the audience and the cast of five keep us on our toes. These lads live for their next high but it is Lauren Downie’s multi-rolling as June, a job centre worker and a Canadian tourist (amongst other things), that stands out.
Andrew Barrett as Renton has a touch of Ewan McGregor about him but the comparison is ultimately unnecessary. This is a story that works best on stage. Welsh’s book exposes the emptiness of life which is the perfect message to convey on stage; Renton’s famous ‘choose life’ speech becomes the new age ‘To be or not to be.’
Although the characters’ humanity is emphasised, the sheer volume and scale of this production drown out quieter moments of tragedy. It is one level and not just because of the loud music or the cast who shout themselves hoarse. The brilliant portrayal of Tommy’s downward spiral into drug-fuelled oblivion is a wonder to watch but the darker side of his characterisation is skipped over in favour of thumping bass.
Recapturing the controversy and dirty shock factor of the novel, Trainspotting Live stays with you long after you leave The Tunnel. Laughs might be quick to come during the interactive, immersive show, but it is overwhelmingly sad in its realistic and non-judgemental portrayal of addiction.
The theatrical innovation behind Trainspotting Live has propelled it across the globe on tours and you can see why. This is theatre of the highest quality, even if you do want a shower afterwards.