Review: Trainspotting Live
Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is a one of a kind movie; back when it was released it was different, new and explosive, something not many had ever seen before. The same can be said for the stage adaptation, Trainspotting Live, which is literally in your face the entire way through. It takes immersive to a new level. If you’re a fan of the movie then you might be pretty confused when first going into Trainspotting Live, as it strays vastly from the original. I haven’t read the novel, but from what I gather I’m assuming the stage adaption takes more cues from the novel rather than the movie. For instance, Spud’s character doesn’t appear, rather Tommy takes his place as another drug addict instead of being a clean cut athlete as presented in the film.
Major plot points are also missing from the film adaption, such as the robberies, court case and baby head turning. There is a baby scene, however it’s presented slightly differently to the film. The main selling point of Trainspotting Live isn’t the story, characters or themes however. Although that is all important, the immersiveness is what the show strides for, and does well at. Presented at fortyfivedownstairs, Trainspotting Live takes place a few floors underground in a fairly large stage room, which resembles more of a club than a theatre room when first entering. Music is pumping, the cast is dancing hard on stage, and seats are just long benches which you crouch on close to the stage. In the twenty minutes before the show starts, actors drag people onto stage to throw down with them, drink soft drink and spray it on you, and collapse in your lap pretending to be drunk off their faces.
It’s a bizarre but enthralling experience, and you never know if they’re playing it up or doing it legitimately sometimes. What’s genuinely incredible is that they jump right into the show after doing dancing without missing a beat, or being out of breath. Gavin Ross opens the show as Renton, however I did think he looked like more of a Spud if I’ll be honest. Ross has the perfect persona of Renton, including the accent which adds to the character’s explosive Scottish nature. As he stomps around stage other characters enter, all displaying different traits and characteristics. Tommy for instance, played by Greg Esplin constantly topples into the crowd and lays on someone, falling asleep or mumbling in their ears. Michael Lockerbie as Sick Boy doesn’t interact as much, choosing to stay standing wearing a clean white shirt and tie.
I found that the two ensemble females in the show, Erin Marshall and Rachel Anderson played a much bigger part than what I first saw in the film. They are strong, powerful women who for a lot of the play push their male counterparts around. Chris Dennis as Begbie is just as, and maybe more so intimidating than he is in the movie, getting right up in people’s faces and screaming abuse at them, whilst Calum Barbour as the other ensemble cast member, manages to create about five different characters on the fly which you can easily tell the difference between.
However what Trainspotting Live tries to do mainly is shock, which only hits home some of the time. You can tell they are trying to cover as much ground as they can in the short 75 minute show, but it does become a bit heavy handed at times. The gross funnier scenes such as the scat blanket and the toilet scene are easily standouts, however the scene in which a character punches Erin Marshall’s character, and she spits fake blood across the stage came across as quite shocking, and I wasn’t sure if the desired response was met. However, Trainspotting Live is truly an experience, one that I’m not sure if I’d take again, but found thoroughly interesting to say the least. The presentation and acting was brilliant, whilst the shocking scenes hit home only some of the time. If you don’t mind getting a bit close and personal with actor and fake poop alike, then this might be the play for you. However, if you prefer to watch your plays from a few metres back, then you might want to sit this one out.
Written by Hamish Vallance
Click here to listen to Hamish and Christian’s interview with Gavin Ross