The term ‘In-Yer-Face theatre’ burst on to the scene in the mid-90s like a screaming child, begging for the world to take notice: a mixture of graphic violence, explicit sex and uncompromising subject matter from the keyboards of some of the generations brightest talents Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane and Philip Ridley. By the turn of the millennium, its tabloid-baiting provocations had rather slipped away, replaced by a new generation who wanted to test theatrical form in other ways, but with a brand new production of Trainspotting we are reminded of its potent form and then some, an immersive 70 minutes into hell under the tunnels of Bristol Temple Meads that paints in graphic detail the horrifying realities of heroin addiction.
From the moment we arrive at the venue, handed glow-sticks and tossed into the middle of a mid-90s Astoria rave, it is clear that this will be a live theatrical experience like no other. Genitalia will be swung inches away from faces, breasts will be flashed, injections will play out in graphic detail, faeces from the worst toilet in Scotland will be chucked liberally hitting the audience (un)lucky enough to be sitting close. You’ll know from that description if this is the show for you, it’s not for the faint of heart, but come its conclusion and the rapturous rock star like reception the brave, hard-working cast received, it is clear this is going to be a massive Bristol hit.
It’s a play that sticks closer to the ethos of the book rather than Danny Boyle’s thrilling but relatively sanitised and very different film version. It means the whole is scrappier and more episodic, arguably less artistically accomplished when you take away its shocks, but what it does instead is rattle the windows and kicks down doors. It’s impossible to come away not having had a strong visceral reaction to it. After a week of rather safe traditional work, it was a relief to see something that made me feel. As Renton says – choose life. This production is full of it.
The cast speak in hard native Edinburgh dialects, to follow every word you would ideally need captions but the whole has its own musicality to it, Welsh’s expletive-filled dialogue has its own sense of poetry and theatrical potency as valid as that of a Churchill or Pinter. The performances are brave, vanity-free and engaging. Gavin Ross as Renton is vastly different from the Ewan McGregor version from the film, funnier, less innocent, more knowing. Chris Dennis is a terrifying presence as Begbie, the kind of person that would make you find another city to drink in let alone another table, while there is noticeable contributions from the girls, Jessica Innes who turns herself from the sexy sex-mad girlfriend clad in underwear and suspenders, to concerned middle-aged mum in the blink of an eye and Erin Marshall who hits the notes of one terribly traumatic scene towards the end so powerfully that it became noticeably too much for some audience members to take.
Directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin keeps the pace flowing over 70 minutes and, in the potent underground surroundings of the Loco Klub, it finds its ideal surroundings. Scrappy, thrilling, traumatic, alive – it’s not for everyone but for those who attend it will be a show that will long stay in the mind.
Runs until 23 April 2016 | Image: Andreas Grieger