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Sydney review - Trainspotting – the Play: sad, depressing and full of despair

Jayden Muir as Alison. Photo by Emma Wright.

Review - Trainspotting – The Play

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh

Adapted by Harry Gibson

Directed by Simon Thomson

A Gradco.Studio Production

Limelight on Oxford

231 Oxford Street Darlinghurst

Season: 16 January – 26 January. Bookings:

Sometimes a play comes along that makes you feel sick to the stomach. The subject matter, the storyline, the characters, the graphic imagery, whatever it is, leaves you feeling empty and unsatisfied. Well, Trainspotting – The Play was one such experience for me.

However, I am sure that the writer of Trainspotting (novel), Irvine Welsh and Harry Gibson (play) intended for me to feel that way. And so, it can be regarded as a success.

The story is set in a very dreary Edinburgh in the 1980’s, but it could equally apply in any major western city in the world. It revolves around a group of twenty-somethings who exist in the dark, sub-culture world of drugs, unemployment, punk music, sex, violence and pubs.

The main character is Mark Renton (Adam Golledge), heroin addict who ultimately wants to get clean. It seems like his whole existence is an endless cycle of sleep, see supplier, go to pub, inject by self or with friends, trip, have random sex then sleep…. (repeat).

Surrounded by like-minded individuals, they encourage and help each other to stay in this ever-spiralling downwards lifestyle. Alison (Jayden Muir) is expecting a baby, fathered by ‘Sick Boy’ (Shaw Cameron). Tommy (Bruno Attanasio), an athlete, becomes curious about heroin and gets drawn into this seedy world from which he can’t escape. Begbie (Matthew Vautin) is a loose cannon. A large man with a quick wit and a short temper, he’s violent to anyone who gets in his way. And Johnny ‘Spud’ Swan (Cassius Russell), Renton’s friend, user, pusher, pimp, who just maybe, has a softer side.

The other characters of June (Julie Bettens), Lizzie (Stephanie Marsden) and Mrs Renton (Jenae O’Connor) complete the cast.

Director Simon Thomson has done a brilliant job in assembling a talented cast and crew to portray this depressing tale. The characterisations are very real and capture the ugly side of human existence perfectly. I’m sure some of the actors had to extend past their personal comfort zones, a tribute to good directorship.

The grotty sets, drab costumes, Scottish accents and dim lighting effects were powerful tools to augment the bleak theme.

There were some noteworthy scenes for their creativity in disgust: the used bedsheet over the girlfriend’s father’s head; the worst toilet in Scotland and; the restaurant scene with a disgruntled waitress (lesson: best not to complain about food or service until you are leaving). For more detail, you must go and see for yourself.

Trainspotting – The Play is ‘in-yer-face’ theatre. It is not something I would take my mother (or avid train spotter) to see. There are quite confronting scenes which made me wince. The violence and sex scenes are repulsive. But most of all, the story is sad, depressing and full of despair. There are no uplifting moments I can remember. That said, there were others in the audience who found amusement in scenes where I felt sick.

Despite all that, Trainspotting – The Play is also the best anti-drug message I have had the misfortune to sit through in a long time. It is a real, powerful portrayal of life at the bottom. A glimpse of what hell might be like.

Trainspotting – The Play is the most unentertaining ‘must see’ theatre performance I can recommend in a long time, if you’re prepared. Just choose life!

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