Posts Tagged Trainspotting


When I told friends I was going to see a theatrical interpretation of Trainspotting they were sceptical. Mainly because they loved the 1996 film and it had such an impact on them. They couldn’t see how the story, centred on heroin addiction in Leith, could be translated to the stage. “How would the play deal with the famous/infamous ‘toilet scene’?” was one question. I didn’t know whether they were right or not. Certainly the film set a high bar of expectation and to meet that in a different medium would be challenging.

There doubts were answered when I saw the production, it is simply one of the best things I have ever seen. The passion and energy of the cast as they rove the audience and stage just communicates to all present. The audience is put on edge by the interaction and that creates a strange tension between the cast and them. They certainly had my attention as I wondered what they would do next and if they would ‘pick on’ me! Gavin Ross as Renton acts as a kind of narrator and he confronts us with a disturbing, yet sometimes bleakly funny, alternative view. One minute the audience were laughing but then the mood changed and we were gripped by the tragedy unfolding.

And, let’s be frank, Trainspotting is a tragedy. How could it be anything else? Happy endings aren’t that common amongst Heroin addicts. The best that can be hoped for is recovery but often the conclusion is a life cut short. Trainspotting is a bleak story of alienated, trapped people who are slowly killing themselves and sacrificing everything for the drug. Erin Marshall hits your emotions when she screams and writhes in tortured agony at the loss of her child. Renton and the others are incapable of holding her or offering comfort. They babble and are concerned more about their next hit.

Trainspotting was accused of ‘glamourising’ drugs by some stupid Tories when the film first came out. I wonder if any of them actually bothered to watch it before condemning and pontificating in their hostile soundbites. The script is based on the 1994 adaptation by Harry Gibson which is bleakly honest.

Like the book and the film this production is informed about the appeal of heroin and the rituals surrounding it. It partly answers the question as to why people take it, what they get out of it. It is educational, in that sense, but never boring.

The cast just carried the audience with them through every change of pace or tone in the narrative. The company are ‘In Your Face Theatre’ and the performance is certainly that but it is also subtle and nuanced. The company have performed Trainspotting in London and I expect they will be offered more venues after this huge hit at the Fringe. They are certainly ones to watch.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

You can catch Trainspotting at Assembly George Square (Underground) until the 31st August, performances at 18:00, 20:30 and 22:45.

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Film & DVD Review: Trainspotting

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Trainspotting DVD cover

Click on image to buy DVD

I didn’t get to see this when it was on the big screen. Now it’s out on DVD so I got a second chance to take a look. Generally, when the critics say how great a film is it turns out to be a disappointment. Not this time.

Some of my less well informed friends have asked why the film is called Trainspotting. I shall tell them, and you. In Leith there is now a Scotmid store and Waterworld where once there was an unused and decaying railway yard. Heroin addicts would use this yard to shoot-up and the local joke had it that they were “trainspotting”.

When you sit down to watch this film you can’t help but have questions about whether it glorifies drugtaking; there has been so much comment in the papers and magazines about it. The main characters are heroin addicts and some appear cool. But it’s not the drug taking that makes them cool or aspirational. Indeed the film doesn’t shirk from showing the seedy, nasty lifestyle which addiction helps to build. The neglect of a baby is one case in point. Tommy slowly dying of AIDS is another. Of course his poster of Iggy Pop still looked good as he wasted away.
For me, Trainspotting was a very moral film — it just wasn’t preachy.

Why many on the “right” missed this point is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was the honesty of the film. It showed that drugs had attractions too. Well, surprise, surprise would people take them otherwise? Or perhaps it was the fact that the soundtrack was so good. Even a bad life set to the likes of Sleeper’s ‘Atomic’, ‘Temptation’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’, might seem great. There was some irony in that the use of ‘Perfect Day’ was over a scene of an overdose. Having the subtlety and sensibility of a pile of bricks, they might have missed it. The soundtrack fitted the film so well. We just know that heroin addicts at that time and place would have been into this music.

The locations in Edinburgh and Leith were chosen with care. My only disappointment was not to see the addicts hanging around by the statue of Queen Victoria at the foot of the walk. London was less well used as a location but hey, the guy who wrote it doesn’t come from there.

What a contrast to the standardised American crap based almost entirely on special effects we are usually bombarded with! It is interesting to note how the British establishment are unable to deal with people who do understand street culture and have honest, thoughtful insights to share. The writer and film-makers would have been listened to far more in other countries. The debate would have been far more intelligent. Will our establishment ever realise that condemning drugs alone is not a solution? It’s just a way of hiding the fact that you don’t have one….

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