Theatre review: Trainspotting at King’s Head Theatre

Gavin Ross as Mark Renton in Trainspotting. Picture: Christopher Tribble

Gavin Ross as Mark Renton in Trainspotting. Picture: Christopher Tribble - Credit: Archant

Irvine Welsh’s cult tale of heroin addiction is not for the faint of heart, says Emma Lake.

Twenty-two years since the publication of Irvine Welsh’s novel (a few less since Danny Boyle’s iconic film), Trainspotting returns as a play at The Kings Head Theatre in Islington — where it continues to shock audiences.

This is an in-your-face production from the very start. Audience members walk into an intense late ‘80s rave scene — with flying limbs and actors manically jumping around the stage bearing glow sticks and hugging one another.

There are no seats in this small theatre so you find a place to sit or stand around the stage — right at the edge of the action.

As you may know, Trainspotting tells the story of a group of young heroin addicts in Edinburgh in the late 1980s.

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In Your Face Theatre Company’s production thrives on audience participation, which continues throughout the show.

It’s a play that should come with a warning. Danger! You may be hit by flying spit, seemingly soiled sheets or the sharp wit of a screaming Scotsman. But don’t let that put you off. This is an exciting production that will make you stop and look again at Welsh’s generation-defining work.

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During the intense hour-long performance the actors leap from one high to another, shouting, kissing and generally disturbing and engaging the audience. We have the grimy, tragic desperation of heroin addiction thrust in our faces.

The twitching bodies sent out of control by withdrawal, the desperate mother fearing the loss of a beloved son and the tragedy of infant death are all the more sobering up close and personal.

Alongside this are laugh-out-loud moments, as lead character Renton peels himself from his soiled sheets and Tommy has vapour rub smeared on his penis.

Gavin Ross shines as Renton, portraying desperation, dizzying highs and tragic lows in equal measure.

Many of us know the story, but you’ve never experienced it like this.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Until April 11.

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