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Transpotting Live review: An impressive spectacle to rival the book and the film ★★★★

Adam Bloodworth April 6, 2018
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You’re off to a rave and you’ll leave caked in s**t. Those are just two of the experiences for audiences watching the stage adaptation of Trainspotting. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The anti-glamorous drugs and sex romp has been adapted from the book Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and the subsequent film, both of which celebrated their 20th birthday in 2016.

But this live show proves the story has a freshness that appeals to new young audiences – at least half of the audience can’t have been born when the book was released on the evening we went along.

The staging is visceral and violent and shocking, an explosive feat that leaves none of the shock of the film or book out.

At the subterranean Vaults under Waterloo station, the setting is not a million miles from the shoddy rave spaces that form a backdrop of the show.

Audiences walk into the immersive show space as Eighties dance music blears, and our lead cast are popping pills and embracing each other.

We overhear a guest say “I fancy going out now!” while we wait for the rest of the audience to trickle in.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s thrilling production gets the best out of Welsh’s script by delivering the punches – and travesties – of the story in a belting 75 minutes straight through.

At the centre of the story is heroin addict Mark, who gets opium suppositories from a dealer called Mikey in order to get clean. On the recovery, he regains his sex drive which misfires after he sleeps with an underage girl after a nightclub meet.

All the while Mark’s friends are still hitting up and existing on the fringes of society, scheming and getting into fights spurred on by drug misuse.

It’s difficult to convey the incredible intensity of the production fairly, which all takes place in a confined space with a low ceiling. Part of the fun is the intimacy of the audience and their connection with the actors who constantly disrupt the show by breaking the fourth wall.

The very good actors from In Your Face Theatre balance a kaleidoscope of emotions as the lives of Welsh’s characters progress from ecstasy to fear and woe.

The immersive elements are carried out with both camp theatricality and genuine grossness.

The infamous toilet scene, where relapsed drug addict Mark toilet dives into a train loo overspilling with diarrhoea, is chronically funny and faithfully shocking to the film.

Frankie O’Connor’s Renton flings human excrement over the audiences on both sides of the room and it’s almost as funny watching the shocked faces of those near to the action as it is the action itself.

The short play cuts short the episodic nature of the book, streamlining events and ordering them so that only the juiciest make the cut.

Overall, in veering from funny to tragic and shockingly violent (expect cot deaths, violence against women and graphic needle use) the show paints a widely eye-opening picture of heroin use.

From misplaced youthful frivolity to trauma and tragedy.

Trainspotting Live is at the Vaults until June 3 | Click here to buy tickets

Related topics: Going Out, going out, Theatre

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