Edinburgh International Conference Centre (Venue 150) – until 27 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Linus West
Take the original Trainspotting movie and put it in IMAX. Turn the sound up to 120%, the acting to 130%. and have all the gore, faeces and bile flying out of the screen, right up in your face. You’ve now got some sense of Trainspotting Live.
Since it first hit bookshelves in 1993, the tale of Mark Renton and his struggle with heroin has become an integral part of Scottish culture. With its explicit and non-judgemental depiction of drug addiction, it has shocked audiences all over the world in its adaptations to both screen and stage.
With their touring production, King’s Head and In Your Face Theatre are seeking to replicate that success. Surely, they can’t possibly live up to what has come before them? They do.
From the moment you step into the venue, there’s no doubt what you’re in for. Set in a long, narrow tunnel beneath the EICC, the audience is sat on only two rows of seats down either side. Heavy strobe lighting, intense disco music, the seven actors already going wild up and down the transverse stage. Your senses are in for a rattling.
Cast as Renton, Gavin Ross kicks off with that iconic opening speech – “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career…” It’s a flawless performance, portraying the Edinburgh addict’s internal struggles with intense realism.
This is the kind of acting that only comes with a complete immersion in the character and the lengths he goes to for his art will make heads turn – don’t bring your gran to this show.
In fact, if you’re not willing to be treated to the explicit extremes of the human experience, don’t go yourself. If you hate audience participation, don’t go. If you despise intimate spaces and vivid effects, don’t go. But if that’s the kind of thing that really gets your blood pumping, then grab tickets while you still can. This isn’t a show for the light-hearted.
That audience participation is a major part of the production – the narrow staging makes sure that you’re right up in it, the whole way through. No-one in either row is safe from humiliation. Seriously, take a raincoat.
Greg Esplin takes on the role of Tommy – Renton’s childhood friend who is adamant never to follow him down that heroin-laced path. Without a doubt the most likeable of the characters, in an energetic and witty performance Esplin makes his character’s perils easy to laugh at. Like the whole ensemble, he has a fine-tuned knack for comic timing.
Michael Lockerbie, Calum Barbour, Gavin Ross. Pic Geraint Lewis
True to the original novel by Irvine Welsh, the show doesn’t have a three-act structure or clear progression of events. You can’t draw a dividing line between any two individual scenes, an expert use of lighting and script see to that. They just flow into each other, you don’t even realise it’s happening.
Which is not to say it doesn’t take you on an emotional journey. Harry Gibson’s adapted script is precisely crafted to pace the audience, guiding them from shock to sombreness. He grabs them by the throat, and doesn’t let go until he’s done.
Calum Barbour and Rachael Anderson, too, are standout actors. Each tasked with playing several different characters, they don’t let that phase them. Seamlessly, they switch from one polar opposite to another – pompous job interviewers to the scum of the earth.
Having thrown Renton and his mates into a range of different scenarios, it’s towards the end that lighting designer Clancy Flynn’s talents really surpass themselves. What she puts the audience through will make you genuinely consider if your drink was spiked on the way in.
Trainspotting Live isn’t a linear story, but a spectacle. If you want to test both your own limits and the limits of theatre, go see it. The dedicated cast is a safe pair of hands, one which won’t hold back.
Everyone involved is gambling with serious humiliation through acting in this, but they own it, and it pays off. Just don’t sit next to the toilet.
Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 150 Morrison Street, EH3 833 (Venue 150)
Wednesday 2 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily (excluding Wednesdays), 6pm, 7.45pm. Fri/Sat only: 9.30pm.
Tickets from the #EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/trainspotting-live
Trainspotting Live on Facebook: @TrainspotLive
Trainspotting Live on Twitter: @TrainspotLive
Trainspotting Live Website: http://www.trainspottinglive.com