Arts Review: Trainspotting


Dir. Gareth Nicholls, Citizens Theatre, 18th October – 11th November

24 years since it was first published and Welsh’s story of a group of Edinburgh junkies has retained its cult status. In the gorgeous setting of the Citizen’s Theatre, the crowd descends into a hushed silence as the spotlight swoops down onto Mark Renton and Daniel Murphy (Spud) keying some speed in preparation for a job interview. Lorn Macdonald gives a seamless performance as our anti-hero Renton: haggard thin, shaven headed, and as disillusioned as he is intelligent. The audience is treated to the infamous ‘Choose Life’ speech early, delivered on a stage lit in brilliant red as New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ thuds in the background.

With the pleasingly aesthetic cinematography of Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation removed, the grim reality of life with addiction is starkly illustrated. The set is minimalist, comprised of a tatty, worn out sofa and the ‘worst toilet in Scotland’-the setting of many a graphic scene. Whether it’s Lesley’s haunting scream of grief when she finds her baby’s lifeless body or, (rather antithetically) the assorted gruesome contents of Spud’s soiled sheets being flung airwards, the production leaps gracefully between evocative and funny. I found myself rooting for the characters, despite their glaring flaws.

Although Robert Carlyle’s Frank Begbie prevails in my head, Martin McCormick portrays the psychotic tendencies of the character convincingly; the vitriol palpable as he fondly tells the story of his latest victim’s demise. Hilariously, he also features in Renton’s withdrawal fuelled delirium wearing a slutty nurse outfit and 6 inch heels.

Trainspotting is iconic. It is loved for its characters and the eloquence and black humour with which Welsh portrays their lives in 1980s Scotland. I therefore find it unproblematic that there is little deviation from the book and the film.  Gareth Nicholls’ adaptation is sharply acted, chronically funny and intensely enjoyable. Honestly, ye cannae miss it.

[Lucy Scott]

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