Adapted and directed by Harry Gibson from the novel by Irvine Welsh
Ten years on Trainspotting still retains its power to arouse shock, disgust and laughter in its audience. From Renton's first soliloquy describing the utterly disgusting mess he has made of a bed through Tommy's self-inflicted fall into crack addiction to the sense of unrelieved hopelessness which pervades the ending of the play and the knowledge that its characters are condemned to repeat ad nauseam (appropriate phrase) the horror that is their lives, the audience squirms and laughs in equal measure.
Welsh and Gibson refuse to demonise their characters (even the psychotic Begbie) but they don't make excuses for them either: they merely show us them as they are. They show us both the pleasure and the degredation brought by drug use. Lurking not far behind our initial reactions is the recognition that these are just ordinary people - there, but for the grace of God...
Lacking a linear narrative and using all kinds of theatrical devices, the play sometimes has the feel of a drug-induced hallucination and sometimes of farce, whilst at other times being painfully realistic. It makes great demands on the actors - and not a few demands on the audience.
It's very much an ensemble piece, with the cast of five - Peter Milne (Renton), Ruaraidh Murray (Tommy), Brian Alexander (Begbie), Laura Harvey (Alison) and Peter J Ireland (Sick Boy) - being called upon to play a variety of roles apart from their main characters, and they make a great job of it. And they even make the thick Edinburgh accents (for the most part) understandable.
Trainspotting does not make for pleasant viewing, but it is compulsive and should be seen, not only for the high quality of the production but also for its insights into what is still a major problem in society.
"Trainspotting" plays at the Gala until 17th May and then goes on to Kirkaldy (19th & 20th May) and Bath (22nd - 27th).
Reviewer: Peter Lathan