Review: Trainspotting Live (EICC)
Updated: Jun 10
Choose life. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fudging big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. But why would I do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got theatre? This is the fringe’s beloved adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s modern classic from In Your Face Theatre Company, performed in a (slightly leaky) tunnel in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for the first time. For those unfamiliar with the iconic novel and film, it follows twenty-something Mark Renton and his friends through their lives as heroin addicts. Oh, and this is immersive theatre. This should be exciting.
Immediately upon entering the senses are assaulted by brightly coloured laser and deafening rave music. The design of the lighting and sound is reminiscent of young, dirty, 90s life that is somewhat wasted on me, but the atmosphere of which is intoxicating. The lighting sets each scene perfectly from a club to an interview and very smoothly, also putting across the characters feelings that where ever they are and whatever they are doing, they remain in a dingy tunnel with the same issues they had the day before and will have tomorrow. As you would expect, the show also has an amazing soundtrack, not copying from the film but retaining the same atmosphere.
There were also some stunning performances in this production. Gavin Ross gave an impressive performance as our protagonist Renton, delivering great physical comedy and demonstrating powerful emotions. My only criticism is that he appears more as an everyday man than his charming equivalent Ewan McGregor in the film adaptation (though in some ways this makes for a more interesting inspection of the victims of addiction). For me, the stand out performances was a tie between Chris Dennis as adrenaline-hungry thug Begbie and Michael Lockerbie as fellow junkie Sick Boy. Dennis enters shouting, enters kicking, and from the very start you do not feel safe being in his company nor do you feel safe not being in his company. There is no glimmer of regret for his actions. Lockerbie nearly brought me to tears during his performance but made me laugh so much but never did I find that I actively liked or disliked him, which to achieve is quite remarkable. The only performance I would question would be that of Greg Espin, through no fault of his own. For whatever reason, Spud does not feature in this production (to my dejection), and so those scenes centred on the kind if whimsical character in the novel and the film are divvied up between Renton and Espin’s Tommy, which unfortunately makes his character a little less clearly defined, though my favourite moment from the performance was Espin’s final scene.
However, those looking for a traditional plot will be sorely disappointed. “Trainspotting Live” is less of a play and more of a theatrical experience, a spectacular technicolour plunge into the life of the characters and a lifestyle, with some moments most Scots can relate to (though this probably isn’t the show for tourists as it desplays spectacular Scottish dialect in all its glory). It can be a quite an overwhelming theatrical experience though, as from the moment you enter the room it is as though you are on a rollercoaster and have no time to catch you breath between laughter, tears, and gasps of horror. The pressure to produce an adaptation of “Trainspotting” in an hour has left little time for a slower phase that may have left room to soak everything in from the previous scene, though the sheer volume of theatrical brilliance is not something to complain about. It is plotless. It is chaotic. It is incredible. Four Stars.
"Trainspotting Live" is on at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre at various times until the 27th of August.
P.S. On the night I attended five people walked out during the performance. Now, they may have had their reasons that were not immediately clear, but even if that was the case most made no effort to be polite in their exit. Top tip: don't do that. This is an intense show, to its very great credit, but walking out can really break an atmosphere and throw actors in immersive theatre. I cannot endorse this production enough but if it turns out it isn't your cup of tea I would encourage you to try and stick it out out of respect for the performance.