I’ve witnessed the studio at Curve be transformed into French barns, New Orleans tenement buildings, Russian torture camps and mirrored Edwardian parlours but never into a full-on banging club as it has been for the start of Trainspotting Live, a theatrical adaptation of Danny Boyle’s 1996 film by In Your Face Theatre Company.
As the audience take their seats amongst the stage – this is a full interactive performance with the audience amidst the action – Nineties rave music blares from the speakers as the young cast, accessorised with glow sticks and wearing Sergio Tacchini sportswear, chase the lasers. This is very much a period piece and that period is the hedonistic days of nineties house where Eckies and whizz were all you needed for a good night out. As their dancing becomes more frenetic and music more hardcore the audience is left waiting to ‘come up’. The soundtrack is spot on leaving us to wonder why we’re not gurning and rolling our eyes to the lights as well – have we taken a duff pill?
As the show starts there’s no time for questions, as Harry Gibson’s adaptation demands concentration, if only to get into the linguistic loop of the broad Scottish accents and associated colloquialisms. For those for whom Trainspotting is unchartered territory, you risk being lost within seconds and might never really catch up amidst a seemingly disconnected collection of the best bits from the film and Irvine Welsh’s book. For those who know the score (!) all the big scenes are there: the shitty sheets, the speed driven interview and the dead baby, but sadly what isn’t there is the time to actually care. The talented cast – and they are exceptionally talented, it has to be said – are given no time between these big impact set pieces to get us to like them or get us to care about them. Without chance to breathe, we have a pregnant woman being kicked in the stomach and chased off stage with a leather belt, before we become immersed, quite literally, into the depths of a stinking toilet searching for a suppository. Talk about taking 4D to the limits!
There are some incredibly powerful moments in this production, but their impact is diminished due to the lack of space they’re given. It’s exhausting on the senses and left me questioning the appeal or likely audience of this new production. For me it was like a greatest hits concert – all the hits, but nothing new to challenge. Does it speak to today’s meow meowers who are more likely to snapchat on a Saturday night than go anywhere near a club? Or is this simply a nostalgia piece for the forty something clubbers who made it through the haze of the heroin years? I’m not sure, maybe I’m still waiting for that pill to hit.
Trainspotting Live Runs at Curve until 24th June. www.curveonline.co.uk
Words by Jonathan Fraser