Monday, 19 September 2016

Trainspotting

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

When Gavin Jon Wright's hapless Spud embarks on his Class A-fuelled job interview in front of red drapes at the opening of Gareth Nicholls' main-stage revival of Harry Gibson's 1994 adaptation of Irvine Welsh's iconic novel, it's a telling pointer to everything that follows. Like the play, there is no filter in the mad rush of tragi-comic truth that Spud blurts out. This is a signifier too that this isn't a play in the conventional sense, but is a series of loose-knit routines that only make full sense when lifted off the page and delivered in a full-on Leith Walk demotic framed by designer Max Jones' strip-lit breezeblock wasteland.

While ostensibly the story of 1980s dole queue junky Renton and his drug buddies, there is less of a gang mentality here than in Danny Boyle's film version, which Gibson's script pre-dated by two years. Nicholls' staging of the series of solos, duologues and ensemble-based vignettes instead knits together a tapestry of need for an entire community, with a lively first-night audience greeting every sketch-like scene like an old friend.

The mood changes in the deathly hush of the first act's end, and the strung-out cold turkey fantasia and desperation of a disenfranchised underclass that follows becomes increasingly darker. While there are clear concessions to audience expectations, the cast of five, led by Lorn Macdonald as Renton, with Angus Miller as Sick Boy, Chloe-Ann Taylor as Alison and Dianne, Owen Whitelaw as Begbie and Wright as Spud make the material their own. Twenty-two years after its first staging, and with austerity biting deeper than ever, Trainspotting now looks fiercely of the moment.

The Herald, September 19th 2016

ends

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