Trainspotting Live – The Vaults, London

Writer: Irvine Walsh

Adaptor: Harry Gibson

Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher & Greg Esplin

Reviewer: Tom Finch

It’s customary for reviewers to quote a line or two from a production to give a feel for what the audience can expect, however, in this case there isn’t a single line that can be printed in full. Trainspotting is, to put it lightly, extreme. Very strong language, nudity and just about every bodily fluid you can think of gets more than a fleeting moment of stage time here.

Set in Nineties Edinburgh, the stage production takes key moments from the film to create a more episodic, less fluid narrative, examining the lives of a group of addicts.

Fitting perfectly in the dark, cavernous Vaults underneath Waterloo Station this production is right at home. The audience sat in rows in traverse, are closer to the action than one might expect and this gives the cast plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with everyone. To say what happens to the audience would be to spoil it but let’s just say nothing is left to the imagination and this cast are clearly comfortable with themselves.

At times the audience interaction does begin to feel a little like a very dark panto except instead of a bucket of water being chucked over the crowd it’s the contents of a public toilet bowl. It’s good fun but it does teeter on the edge of being played for laughs and taking the audience out of the moment. It is redeemed as the story takes a darker turn and the characters, just centimetres away from us suffer the consequences of their hedonistic demons.

By the end of the performance the mood has soured, the loud yelps and giggles of the audience have been silenced. Now they sit, rapt, horrified and a little ashamed of their earlier reaction. The tonal shift does feel out of place and is as abrupt as a trucker’s gear change but the point is well made.

Directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin have assembled a cast with few weak links. Frankie O’Connor as Renton is rarely offstage and does a great job of dragging us kicking and screaming into his world. Rachel Anderson is able to be hilarious and devastating in equal measure.

Aided by Clancy Flynn’s trippy lighting design and Tom Lishman’s trance-like sound deisgn this a production that gnaws at the vitals, grabbing the audience by the throat and dragging them down into a seedy, bleak underworld. When the 75 minutes are up it feels like a breath of fresh air to go out into the smoggy streets of London. For those with a strong stomach this is well worth a watch.

Runs until 3 June 2018 | Image: Geraint Lewis

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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