Friday, 24 March 2017

Trainspotting, March 23, 2017 ***

Adapted by Harry Gibson from the novel by Irvine Welsh, by In Your Face Theatre
fortyfivedownstairs until April 13, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Mar 23, 2017
Stars: ***1/2
Review also online a Herald Sun Arts (Comedy Festival) on Fri March 24, 2017. KH

 Gavin Ross as Renton
Be warned! If your theatre tastes don’t extend to being assailed by audacious, nasty, expletive-riddled depictions of heroin addiction, nudity, sex and violence, then Trainspotting may not be for you.

If, however, you loved Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult movie or Irvine Welsh’s 1993 book on which the film was based, then put on your scruffiest clothes and prepare for 75 minutes of immersive theatre during which you may be jostled, jumped on, or have fake excrement hurled in your direction.

Currently in cinemas, you can revisit Welsh’s dysfunctional characters in later life in Trainspotting 2, but Harry Gibson’s stage adaptation reminds us of the bleak intensity of their original story that is set in Edinburgh in the 1990s.

Visiting Scottish company, In Your Face Theatre, lives up to its name with this confrontational and hectic production directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher.

Gavin Ross as Renton, the character made famous by Ewan McGregor, is a compelling presence as he narrates the grotesque lives of this gaggle of crims, junkies, drunks and misfits.

The story is episodic and fragmented, reflecting the chaos of the underground world inhabited by Renton and a bunch of desperadoes that includes his naive but sympathetic mate, Tommy (Greg Esplin), the charming Sickboy (Michael Lockerbie), their dealer, Mother Superior (Calum Barbour), the thuggish Begbie (Chris Dennis), and desperate Alison (Erin Marshall).

Trainspotting starts off as outrageously broad, loud, physical and verbal comedy then it staggers into tragedy as the sheer horror and degradation of the characters’ decadent, filth-ridden lives makes laughter impossible.

Distressing and alarmingly graphic scenes of drug injecting and violence replace the earlier hilarity arising from the on-stage pandemonium that invades the constantly startled, glo-stick waving audience.

We see Renton soil his bed, go through withdrawals or overdose, dive into a mucky toilet to rescue an opium suppository, witness Alison’s baby’s death and recoil when Begbie beats his pregnant girlfriend (Rachael Anderson).

The cast’s Edinburgh accents and often-impenetrable Scottish vernacular demand the audience’s attention and give the authenticity to the dialogue that is dense with f***ing and blinding.

This is an energetic production with committed performances from the entire ensemble, but it feels rushed as it hurtles to an unsatisfying conclusion and the constant shouting of almost every line leaves it lacking any dynamic range.

Most characters, except for Renton and possibly Tommy, are not fully developed: Sickboy’s seductiveness and philosophical smugness are almost lost in this stage version, and Begbie is rarely on stage, although, when he is, his viciousness is horrific.

However, if you want an in-your-face experience that will scare you into sobriety, Trainspotting is just the ticket.

By Kate Herbert

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