Live and kicking

Trainspotting Live (In Your Face Theatre)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

April 19 – 22

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Attendance at “Trainspotting Live”, In Your Face Theatre’s award-winning production needs to come with a lot of advice. The first recommendation is to arrive early, not to choose a seat (thought that is an important decision too… and positioning near the toilet is discouraged), but to enjoy the start-of-show experience that places the audience authentically in an Edinburgh rave circa late 1980s, glowsticks at the ready. Indeed, music features a key component of the entire “Trainspotting Live” experience, booming its ‘80s trance-rave soundtrack (including songs from the namesake film’s soundtrack) in reverberation around the Powerhouse theatre stage that serves as the show’s location.

This is immersive theatre at its most immersive, especially for those audience members sitting in sections around the edge or on the stage itself. In fact, nowhere is really safe as personal space is invaded, drinks are spilled, sheets are soiled and the contents of the worst toilet in Scotland are shared. Every possible pre-show warning is realised in this ‘in-yer-face’ production; it contains full-frontal nudity, violent sexual themes and imagery, heavy drug/needle use and simulated smoking. And its course language is aggressive and relentless. But fans of Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting” novel and/or Danny Boyle’s film adaptation, would expect no less. Those unfamiliar with these cult classics, meanwhile, can expect to be shocked.

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The adaptation of Welsh’s brutal novel tells the story of heroin addict Mark Renton and his circle of friends living in the Scottish capital. Although “Trainspotting Live” omits some of the original text’s aspects, its attention to detail and inclusion of key scenes ensures that its essence is maintained. The 21st anniversary production is more than just a homage to the tragicomedy; in the hands of the dedicated Scottish cast, it feels fresh and engaging, especially in its initial comedy and audience interaction. And when things become more serious, it is without audience realisation that the tone is changing, such is the subtly of its move towards its powerful conclusion with confronting moments of violence against women and then eloquent narration of the organismic effect of heroin on users, making for a surprisingly heartbreaking final section.

The cast of Scottish performers of course bring an authenticity to their character’s thick accents and distinct vocabulary and although its sounds are initially cumbersome on the ear, understanding soon increases as things progress. As long-term junkie Renton, Gavin Ross is engaging and ultimately empathetic, especially in his attempts at cold turkey. And Greg Esplin is impressive in his commitment to the physical nuance of Tommy’s heroin addiction.

“Trainspotting Live” is perfectly suited to its Powerhouse Theatre stage setting, with its graffiti former PowerStation walls making for an easy aesthetic transition to the grungy, squalid world of the story. The seating may not be comfortable, but this is far from comfortable show. The fact that nothing is taboo makes for an absolutely unique night out, kicking with energy and gritty nostalgia. It is certainly easy to appreciate its sold out-runs as part of the 2015 and 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival programs and fans of the cultural phenomenon need to make sure they experience its choose life realism before ‘they f**k off’.

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