Choose life. Choose theatre. Choose a play. Choose TRAINSPOTTING. Choose this f*****g awesome stage adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s iconic novel currently playing at the King’s Theatre.

Meet Renton (Lorn McDonald), Spud (Gavin Jon Wright), Sick Boy (Angus Miller) and Begbie (Martin McCormick) – four young Leithers whose life is dominated by getting humiliated in the dole office as well as getting high on smack and other drugs. Set during the tail end of Maggie Thatcher’s reign of terror, our lads can easily be brushed off as ‘losers’ and though to a certain way they are it’s their circumstances which are to blame: in a Thatcherite era that reduced the humble underdog even further, Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie try hard to escape their gritty existences but their addictions and consequent unemployment (or is it the other way around) trap them even further. Sick Boy’s girl Alison (Chloe-Ann Taylor) fancies herself as a loving mum to toddler Dawn but her addiction problems take the better of her, resulting in one of the most harrowing scenes in TRAINSPOTTING. And for Renton, a short-lived romance with schoolgirl Diane (also played by Chloe-Ann Taylor) promises no redemption either.

Is not all doom and gloom in Harry Gibson’s stage adaptation, which is considerably darker in tone then the 1996 movie version and thus comes closer to Welsh’s ‘punk novel’. In the opening scene Renton and Spud have to endure yet another job interview at their local dole office and the very different characters of the lads are established in a riotously humorous way. No need to go into too many details here as readers will be familiar with either the novel or the film or both. Yes, that notorious ‘toilet scene’ is lovingly recreated for your viewing pleasure as is Spud’s mishap involving soiled bed sheets. Gavin Jon Wright has a field day as ultra-dodgy con artist ‘Sick Boy’ and the same can be said for Martin McCormick’s psychopathic ‘Begbie’ – a guy everyone loves to hate! Lorn McDonald’s Renton is a tour de force performance and he revels in uttering profanities and letting rip with cynical observations about life, love and politics that are spot-on. Chloe-Ann Taylor too is terrific in all her multiple roles from drug addict young mum ‘Alison’ to wise-crack school girl ‘Diane’ to Renton’s mum to a London drug dealer… Gavin Jon Wright strikes the perfect balance in portraying ‘Spud’ as a likeable dope but also as someone who might do slightly better is only using his brain to full capacity.

The sequences are a combination of gritty realism and surreal, hallucinatory sequences like the one in which Martin McCormick appears as Mother Superior. The language, as one can expect, is beyond explicit and the production doesn’t shy away from portraying sexual scenes in a rather graphic way too though of course, no frontal nudity here. And do I need to mention the constant depiction of drug use?
This is a thought-provoking production which still strikes a few chords, especially given our current political and economic climate! A must-see for all you Trainspotters out there but be warned: non-Scottish theatre-goers may find the thick Edinburgh/Leith accent isn’t always easy to grasp (and that’s an understatement!).

(TRAINSPOTTING runs at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh until 18th November)

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