I have read the novel. I have watched the film. I decided it was time to add the play to the collection.
Trainspotting is powerful. This play does not invite you, it grabs you by the collar and thrusts you into the tortured lives of Renton (Gavin Ross), Begbie (Chris Dennis), Tommy (Greg Esplin), Sickboy (Rory Speed), Alison (Erin Marshall) and June (Jessica Innes).
The play is as immersive as most theatre would dare to go. You are welcomed by unabashed nudity, an aggressive disregard for personal space, and even the splatter of mud as a consequence of the infamous ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ scene. Yet, this physical immersion is purposefully second to the mental immersion. The drug taking is startling, but the focus is always on the mental torment behind it. These are extreme scenarios, but with sadly prosaic causes. You walk away empathizing for those with mental illnesses, even if it’s not something you have experienced for yourself, simply due to how well it is visually depicted.
It takes an intangible concept, difficult to describe, and places it on stage for all to see.
There are many beautiful, yet jarring scenes to watch. A particularly difficult one, made so powerful by the acting of Erin Marshall, is when Alison loses her child. The Smiths, ‘Asleep’, trickles through the air, replacing the grieving parents haunting cries, as the audience witness Alison inject heroin and momentarily escape her anguish. The audience are forced to confront a feeling of devastation, which culminates in misery as Alison falls asleep in a cruelly ironic foetal position.
However, the most painful yet most accomplished scene, is the strobe lit descent of Tommy. The unravelling of his character is sudden, and the scene could have run the risk of moving too quickly had it not been for Esplin’s acting and the direction of Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin. Various characters’ voices cling to a desperate Tommy, pounding his flaws into him, as Pink Floyd’s, ‘Comfortably Numb’, echoes from the speakers. It is horrific to watch, but nevertheless important.
Choose Life. That’s the line that everyone knows. This play doesn’t just choose life, it confronts life and its darkest corners, dragging the audience along for the ride, whether they like it or not.