Review: Trainspotting Live (Riverside Studios)

Based on Irving Welsh’s novel and Danny Boyle’s film, Trainspotting Live is hardly made for the fainthearted or sensitive of audience-goers.

Adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson, with directing credit to Adam Spreadbury-Maher with Greg Esplin (who also plays Tommy) and Ben Anderson, Trainspotting Live is a production of Seabright Productions, In Your Face Theatre, and the King’s Head Theatre.

I’m not a typical attendee of immersive theatre: in fact it is a genre I skirt around. But this sounded interesting and in a local venue, so when an invite appeared I snapped it up for its London stop.

Production photo from Trainspotting Live

Trainspotting Live is a no holds barred look at the drug culture in Edinburgh and London in the 1990s. Renton and his friends do little and aspire to even less, just looking for the next hit and fix.

On arrival you are given a coloured armband which glows in the dark and take your seats to pulsing rave music while the cast hug you, shout at you, and dance and climb around you.

In the show proper, audience members are regularly bothered and have things flung at them. Be aware it doesn’t really matter where you sit on either side of the traverse stage, you may find yourself involved, but right at the back is probably best.

With a script chock full of swearing (I lost count of the cu*ts), a lot of nudity, and some very shocking scenes of drug use and withdrawal, this grabs you from the start and challenges you to look away.

Production photo from Trainspotting Live
This icky quilt ended up on my husband’s head …

Although some moments are funny, when the mood switched the darker plot lines are handled brilliantly, and the ugly face of drug addiction and what it makes you do is set in sharp relief.

Every member of the seven-strong cast is excellent, but special mention must go to Andrew Barrett’s Renton, who feels real, terrifying, and pitiful. The women (notably Lauren Downie) are just as starkly detailed, whether mothers, wives or just passers-by.

Trainspotting Live is currently on tour: at Riverside Studios until 6 November, it then ptogresses to MAST Mayflower Studios in Southampton from 9-12 November. Book tickets here.

*** (and a half)

Image credit: Geraint Lewis