Once in a while, a piece of art remarkable enough to define a generation is made: a fist-in-the-gut type of thing that demands we sit up and pay attention, however uncomfortable it may be. During the 1990s, Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting had many of us sitting open mouthed in front of the screen with an almighty Fucking Pow! I’ve tried reading Irvine Welsh’s original book about drug culture amongst young people in the economically depressed areas of Edinburgh but, truth is, his style of writing in the vernacular defeated me. Luckily, though, the film made the story infinitely more accessible (and the soundtrack propelled it to another level).
And now, King’s Head Theatre and In Your Face Theatre bring us a production of Trainspotting that is gobsmackingly raw and fresh and so up there in your face (aptly named production company, that) that you may be wiping the spit from your face for days to come.
Renton, Sickboy, Alison, June and Begbie are heroin addicts, junkies, skagheads. Tommy isn’t yet but life will lead him there. Downtrodden and desperate, these young people turn to junk in an effort to put a touch of gloss on the ordinariness of life, to give the dullness of everyday existence a sparkle. We’re all going to die anyway, so what is there to lose? Renton wants to clean up, though, and we go with with him on his journey, meeting his mates, witnessing violence, death and sickness along the way.
This version of Trainspotting is indescribably immersive. From the moment we enter The Loco Klub at Bristol Temple Meads, we are part of the show. Completely and utterly. The music is banging in a full-on 1990s reprisal. Having spent all but 6 months of my 20s in that decade, I wanted so badly to get up and dance with the cast. Except … I didn’t. Not really. Because I knew that Begbie, that absolute cunt of a nutcase, was up there. And, well, you wouldn’t want to get too close to him, would you? Tough. Depending on where you sit (if you aren’t comfortable cross-legged on a hard floor, let TFT Box Office know before you arrive because proper seats are limited), expect to have shit thrown over you, be threatened, witness hardcore violence, be confided in, be offered Class As, have a dick in your face, tits grazing your head, strobe lights fucking your head up, music so loud that your brain may explode into tiny pieces, leaving more mess over a floor that will soon become drenched in the heart wrenching filth of reality. And, honestly, truthfully, if my language just offended you, this is not the show you need to see.
But if you’re fine with that, if you want a theatrical experience that redefines the genre of ‘black comedy’, this Scottish cast of seven delivers one of the most powerful and memorable productions you are ever likely to see, in a setting that is unbeatable. Well done Tobacco Factory Theatres ‘Beyond’, you’ve given Bristol another gem. Absolutely! Fucking! Brilliant!
Due to high demand, Trainspotting is running at The Loco Klub for an extra week until 23rd April so if you think you’re hard enough and are extremely lucky, you might just get a ticket here
(Image by Andreas Grieger, with thanks)