Trainspotting at the King’s Head
You know you’re not in for a standard night at the theatre when you’re given a glow-in-the-dark wristband on arrival. Or when you find yourself practically sitting on the floor in what appears to be a rave. For the first 10 minutes (or did it just feel that long?) the audience is transported back to the drug-fuelled late 80s as thumping dance music and strobe lights fill the tiny room, and Irvine Welsh’s band of wild, sweaty wasters dance their shell suits off. And for the next hour, things get even crazier.
Like the world Renton and his friends inhabit, the set is sparse and dingy with drug paraphernalia littered all around. In the corner stands a wonderfully filthy toilet – the centrepiece for one of the show’s most memorable moments. As the play’s narrator and anti-hero, Gavin Ross is a cocky, compelling Renton and Greg Esplin provides a sweet foil as his friend, Tommy. Their relationship is the most fully realised out of all the group, and their interpretation of the famous interview scene is particularly funny.
Created in association with In Your Face theatre, this production of Welsh’s cult novel is bold, frenetic and visceral. The traditional boundaries between cast and audience are ripped out, stamped on and probably flushed headfirst down the aforementioned toilet. We’re the people who look down on druggies like them, and they’re going to show us what it’s like to come up close to their violent, squalid world. It’s a terrifyingly physical performance and the cast commit themselves wholeheartedly. But the flipside with such an immersive play is that much time is spent ducking for cover and trying to disappear behind the person in front of you, it’s often hard to concentrate on what’s actually being said and appreciate the acting for itself. And at times it feels as though the story is sacrificed for the shock factor.
The King’s Head is a fantastic little pub theatre – and if you’re the kind of person who books a front row ticket to see a comedian in the hope of getting singled out, you’re guaranteed to love this. But if you’re of a nervous disposition, it might be wise to watch the film from the safety of your sofa instead. And if you’re somewhere in between, just make sure you arrive half an hour early and down a couple of swift pints first. And don’t wear your best shirt.
Photo: Christopher Tribble
Trainspotting is on at the King’s Head Theatre from 2nd until 23rd February 2016, for further information or to book visit here.