Trainspotting

Irvine Welsh

In Your Face Theatre

Hill Street Drama Lodge

From 31 July 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

This dangerous, exciting, in-yer-face staging of Irvine Welsh’s modern classic is taking place only a mile or so up the road from where the action is set.

Leith might have become gentrified but viewers will still recognise the power and veracity of the message that drugs are addictive and can be fatal.

In Your Face Theatre might be a young company but its members have bags of imagination and artistic vision, ensuring that this is a gruesomely unforgettable 80 minutes.

Where most directors would quail at depicting some of the junkies’ scenes of degradation on stage, director Christopher Rybak feels no such qualms, causing horrified groans at times from promenading audience members, who are invited to get up close and personal to scenes that they might well have preferred to keep at a safe distance behind a proscenium arch.

The story will be familiar. A bunch of unemployed Edinburgh wasters take dangerous quantities of drugs, leading them to behave dangerously and irresponsibly with awful but at times funny consequences.

Our guide for much of the evening is the excellent Gavin Ross playing hollow-eyed Renton. He seems human, if desperate, whereas the almost equally good Chris Dennis, in the role of psychotic Begbie, portrays a dangerous piece of work not above beating up his pregnant wife.

The best support comes from Erin Marshall as desperate Alison, whose shock at a cot death that might well have been avoidable is chillingly realistic.

The performances all round are laudable, though some of the speech disappears, where the dialect is too strong, making the production most enjoyable for those who know the plot anyway.

Trainspotting is never comfortable viewing but this version, with loud music and dance to create an appropriate atmosphere will stay in the memory for a considerable time, which is saying something in the midst of the largest arts festival in the world.