Trainspotting Live at Riverside Studios
Trainspotting Live has tornadoed into London’s Riverside Studios for three weeks only, and it promises to whip up a storm. The junkie friends of Irvine Welsh’s cult novel, made even more popular by Danny Boyle’s 1996 film, continue to attract interest. This adaptation by Harry Gibson dates back to the immediate aftermath of the book’s publication, which is another reason why it shouldn’t be compared to the movie. As Gibson himself puts it: “a play and a film are two different animals.”
The theatrical production captures the raucousness and disorientation of the protagonists’ experiences through an immersive feel. The action takes place in the central aisle of the performance space, with the audience sitting on either side; when they enter the room, they find themselves in the midst of a rave. Music is blasting and the characters are enjoying the highs of intoxication as they jump and run around. They pick fights and embrace each other, and they also invade viewers’ space as they get people to join in the party spirit.
The story of Mark Renton and his friends unfolds in Edinburgh’s 1980s heroin scene. Mayhem governs their surroundings and their minds, and they hold on to moments of momentary euphoria as they unavoidably slip into a downward spiral of bleakness. The raw and unrestrained behaviours they engage in see them tread on a thin line between black comedy and downright tragedy.
It’s no easy feat to bring to the stage a story so popular and so dynamic, but this production succeeds in taking the audience on a dizzying ride, where everything feels out of control. While there is no shortage of high energy, what lags behind is a foundation for the personal stories of the characters, which come in snippets but never feel fully formed or enveloping.
Trainspotting Live is ultimately successful thanks to the actors’ full commitment to their wild roles and to the immersive approach. The fact that the action often expands onto the areas reserved for the audience, coupled with frequent interactions, means that one feels involved in the characters’ chaos while also experiencing a heightened attention due to the unpredictability of the action.
Copious use of foul language, nudity and graphic drug-related content means that this production is not for the fainthearted, but that it does get to the very essence of the phenomenon it depicts.
Photos: Geraint Lewis
Trainspotting Live is at Riverside Studios from 18th October until 6th November 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: