Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Renton, Sickboy and Gang Storm into Wales


Seabright Productions, King's Head Theatre & In Your Face Theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , February-14-18
Trainspotting by Seabright Productions, King's Head Theatre & In Your Face Theatre The production warns to expect a whole lot of things with nudity in the lead. Nudity-schnudity. Everything, pace Nietzsche, is recurrence. The roots of the show can be traced back to Julian Beck. Those who grew up in the LIFT era saw actors taking their clothes off with a frequency that became a kind of mandatory nod to modernity. The first great thing about this rambunctious, high-volume event is that not a person present, bar one, could be of an age to have been anywhere near a LIFT production. One hundred and forty people are packed onto the Aber stage, the whole lot- bar one- under the age of twenty-five.

Aberystwyth's nicely raked seating is behind a curtain. The company plays out on a narrow strip of stage between two lines of onstage seats. The proximity allows the actors to rampage among the spectators. The occasional viewer gets an insult, a spray of liquid, a bout of simulated intercourse in the face. There is an irony of illusion broken. When Begbie is ten feet away and pokes a viewer's forehead with a billiard cue he is terrifying. But it all changes when he is standing on your toes and patting your shoulder. He can wave his bottle of Buckfast- “makes you f*** fast”- and issue his stream of expletives but the physical proximity removes all the alarm. He is a man, an actor.

A truer guide to “Trainspotting” is less the programme warnings than the printed notice by the entry door. “Turn off ya f***ing phones.” The audience knows what it is coming to see. It is more akin to going to a tribute band than a piece of drama. So it is; we see what we expect- this is not intended in any way other than as a compliment. “Trainspotting” is a Dionysiac display of energy for the first hour.

The script has an expletive count that makes an Oliver Stone screenplay seem like a submission for Pixar. “Eyes up here, pal!” says Frankie O'Connor's Renton to a front-row member of the audience. The viewer being addressed is a few inches eye sight from the one part of the human anatomy over which the actor has no muscular control. A diarrhea-soaked sheet is flicked around to audience shudder. The great, and unique, suppository hunt is re-enacted. Soaked paper and a used condom fly through the air.

The first section has a few scenes outside sex, smack, insult and banter. A job interview has to be f***ed so there is no chance of an employment offer. But it has to be done with finesse so that the f***ing is not too obvious to the job centre. The interviewer is a caricature not a character as is an American tourist who just loves Edinburgh. Adam Spreadbury-Maherm is director and Greg Esplina co-director. Their production has had a long life. It has done so because it is high-energy ribald performance.

And then in the last part it all changes. The disruption is great. It is as though we have bought tickets to see Tom Hanks and then Spielberg is off the set and it's a Tobe Hooper movie. There is violence against women, Sickboy is hugging a dead child, it's about the horror of cold turkey and there is a moral. “A real junkie doesn't care about any other c***.” The disjunction is so great that it does not work. Nothing has prepared the audience for it. By chance a master script-maker can be seen just a couple of sound-proofed walls away. Martin McDonagh in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” walks the high wire of violence, emotional impact and blackness of comedy.

“Trainspotting” is a great show but formally it breaks in two. It opens with a ten minute glow stick dance. The fuel is MDMA, an informed audience member tells me.
Erin Marshall is picked out for particular skills. It is all to do with the gurning and the upward roll of the eyes. She has been there in the life says the audience member. No is my reply. She is an actor and that is what they do.

Recommended. “Trainspotting” plays at Ffwrnes 16th/17th February and Cardiff Tramshed 27th February to 3rd March.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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