Originally published in Bristol Post.
Some seven years, 900 performances and multiple tours that have gone as far afield as Australia and New York, Trainspotting Live is an undoubted theatrical phenomenon. It’s not difficult to understand why, there is still little theatre quite like it; a high-energy, gross-out, audience-interactive work that gives a rush not seen since club nights at 1990’s Astoria.
It’s not for the faint of heart with liberal uses of nudity, bodily fluid being tossed around and actors getting up close and personal but the City of Bristol has taken it to heart- this is the third time the tour has hit the Loco Club underneath Bristol Temple Meads. On this, my second viewing, the strengths and weaknesses of the work come even more to the core.
It’s a work that sticks close to the episodic nature of Irvine Welsh’s novel, scenes bleed from pub to street to flashback with little recourse to narrative clarity, but Greg Esplin and Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s adaptation also celebrates the heritage of Danny Boyle’s iconic British movie, we get in full for example the iconic, ‘Choose Life’ speech as Underworld’s Born Slippy blares around the space. It’s both a help and a hindrance, reminding us that the movie did something truly extraordinary in turning a deliberately messy sprawling tale into something scalpel sharp and artistically rich.
This theatrical version is a work of two halves, the first dirty and flirty, as soiled bed sheets are flung around, audiences chatted up and the iconic toilet scene is played up close and personal, as desperate Renton wades into Edinburgh’s worst toilet liberally splashing the contents around the up-close audience. This is what the audiences have come for, a loaded toilet version of Disney’s Splash Mountain
Its second act moves into darker territory as the grim reality of being addicted to smack comes to the fore. Yet in a work that only lasts 70 minutes we have not had time to connect on a personal level with these characters, to feel their pain or mourn their loss; what should elicit as much response in its audience as flung excrement never quite hits the same spot.
Trimmed down in numbers and tightened since it was last here, its five-strong cast deliver brave in-yer-face performances, but its Andrew Barrett’s Renton who stands out most, bringing boyish charm, so that even as he plunges into the depths of despair, there is still a twinkle that suggests he will manage to get out of this self-inflicted hell-hole
Trainspotting Live is a theatrical experience like little else. It may not hit the heart like it does the gut but most will be far too caught up in the ride to care.
Trainspotting Live plays at the Loco Club until 23 March.