Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Trainspotting at the King's Head Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Trainspotting at the King's Head Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Trainspotting at the King's Head Theatre
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22 Mar REVIEW: Trainspotting at the King’s Head Theatre

It’s the ‘90s, and N-Trance’s Set You Free is throbbing through the rave scene of Leith, Edinburgh. Bodies are pulsating, sweating, criss-crossed by lasers in a frenzied assault, casting light, for just one beat, on a mess of drink, drugs and abuse.

It’s a scene we’ve grown used to seeing in films, with wobbly slow-mo camera shots that fade in and out of focus, held at face height so it’s (apparently) like we’re walking through the place ourselves. But it’s something else entirely to create – in theatre – a scene like this that the audience can actually feel and explore; the music, lights, shouting, lolling, ears ringing, jacked up people dancing vigorously, bashing into each other, drawing blood from wounds that won’t feel any pain…less sensory overload than outright sensory battery, the audience experiences all this before Trainspotting even gets started.

GavinRoss(MarkRenton)ErinMarshall(Alison) SmallIt’s not even like it then simmers down and the play reverts to being a watered down version of the film; with a script written before the film adaptation, it forcefully takes the novel as it’s source, stripped down with a presentation as the most vivid of immersive productions that will shock, stun and probably horrify some people. As anyone with even a fleeting awareness of Trainspotting will know, it’s not one for the faint hearted. With drugs, nudity and sex galore, you have to expect it to be brutal – but the degree to which it fulfils this brief is genuinely astonishing.

The theatrical space at the Kings Head Theatre has been absolutely transformed for the production, into one, large performance arena that’s at once the grotty underside of an abandoned car park, a hovel of a flat, nightclub, cinema and, most memorably, a foul toilet at the back of a high street bookies, the setting to one of the most memorable scenes as Mark Renton (Gavin Ross), struggling through heroin withdrawal, loses – and tries to recover – some very valuable and recently inserted opium suppositories inside a backed up toilet.

He and his friends are a group of junkies, doing literally whatever they have to to get the next fix. They party hard, fight hard, have hard (to put it delicately) sex, and top it off with hard drugs, like the cherry on top of a shitty, needle-y cake. But their crushing poverty is as inescapable as the talons of addiction, giving rise to the funniest – and possibly most pertinent – scene, a series of speed-fuelled job interviews imposed by the dole office.

In Your Face Theatre really do present an in your face show, and one that’s seemingly shocking for the sake of being shocking. More than punctuated with expletives, perhaps a fraction too long is spent watching the various actors’ orgasm faces as they shoot up over and over again, but then, really, what do you expect? As an immersive show, you have to expect to be immersed. Expect to have to stand, move, interact with the actors, rave along, have people up in your face, be stumbled over, hidden behind. You’re part of the action – and that’s what makes the production so vivid.

Boasting a talented group of actors and more hypodermics than the average GP surgery, Trainspotting is a triumph of immersive theatre. With the power to physically revolt whilst being darkly funny and utterly entertaining, there’s a whole lot of drama crammed into the 65 minute show. A theatrical experience unlike any other, it’s gritty, crude and about as graphic as it’s possible to be.

Venue: The King’s Head Theatre
Dates: 17th March – 11th April 2015
For tickets and information:
Image: Christopher Tribble

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here