How do you top Trainspotting, the defining film of the ‘90s? You top it by making it live. By forcing you to see, feel and smell heroin addicts in the urban poverty and squalor of Edinburgh. Is there any good reason for anyone to see this play? Who needs reasons when you have heroin?
It shocks, offends and brutalises the hell out of you
It’s been exactly 30 years since we were told to choose life by Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. The film, directed by Danny Boyle, came out three years later and plunged Ewan MacGregor into stardom. In its tenth anniversary run at the Fringe circuit, Trainspotting Live is as ballsy as ever. It is still the most uncompromising and controversial show you are likely to see anywhere. It captures the spirit of the original story to the teeth and repackages it into an immersive production that is just as relevant in today’s society.
Even though the warnings are clearly spelled out for you: full nudity, offensive language, strobe lighting, interactive behaviour, triggering themes, nothing will prepare you for the shock of entering the venue. You walk straight into an underground rave with all the characters charging around seemingly spaced out of their heads. Renton goes into his iconic monologue while the other actors are barging up and down the isles. They might just as well be flirting with you, taking the piss out of you, wrapping their arms round you, shouting abuse at your face, snatching your drink or staggering drunkenly on you.
There were genuine screaks of horror each time some form of bodily discharge was chucked at us – and it happened a lot. But come on, this is Trainspotting, what did you expect? Best not come to the show dressed in your best outfit, that’s for sure. The word immersive gets thrown around a lot when describing theatre productions. Trainspotting, however, is fully immersive – you get dragged into its ugly abyss whether you like it or not. Just like it should be when creating this cult underworld. The tone remains suitably offensive, violent and dangerous throughout the supercharged and adrenaline filled 75-minute performance.
All your favourite characters and memorable scenes are there, and the energy of the cast is off the scale. The two that stand out the most are Andrew Barrett as Renton, playing painfully vividly his numerous cold turkeys, including the notorious shitstorm toilet scene, and Oliver Sublet as Begpie, with a striking physical presence, and having his comical mental meltdowns every two minutes. Another striking scene with darker undertones is the death of Sick Boy’s and Allison’s baby daughter.
This show is definitely not for everyone. It shocks, offends and brutalises the hell out of you, but if you are a fan of Trainspotting, it will take you down on a glorious memory lane. Irvine Welch himself says: ‘This is the best way to experience Trainspotting. I was shocked, and I wrote the f*cking thing!' I wouldn’t dare to disagree with him. I choose life.