Sunday May 27, 2018


By Diana Simmonds
March 27 2017

TRAINSPOTTING LIVE, fortyfivedownstairs, presented by Andrew Kay and Associates – a Kings Head and In Your Face Production, 22 March-13 April 2017. Photography Geraint Lewis: above - Gavin Ross; below - Chris Dennis

As you descend the stairwell to the fortyfivedownstairs space you are blasted with music, leaning in through the fog and noise to ask for your tickets, instead you are handed wrist bands and fluoro sticks… The actors are already in full flight weaving, dancing, screaming drunkenly at each other and no audience member is spared.  

We are guided to a step to sit on at the edge of the gladiatorial arena. Strobe lighting reveals the audience, sharp, alert mostly in their late 20s-early 30s, smiling and laughing with a slight air of trepidation. I watch them through the maniac dancing of the cast, and see my foot tapping. These are not your ordinary theatregoers so the fact there is no fourth wall is lost on them; it’s as if they were already expecting immersion theatre.

Trainspotting, written by Harry Gibson, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh and co-directed by Australian-born and London-based Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin (who plays Tommy), is rude, crude nude, unapologetic theatre of the shocking, and it is brilliant. 

The play follows Mark Renton (in a tour de-force performance by Gavin Ross) and his heroin-taking mates in their downward spiral into a chosen life-style of slow destruction. We witness the horrors of addiction.  

The strong ensemble cast, including Rachael Anderson, Calum Barbour, Chris Dennis, Greg Esplin, Michael Lockerbie and Erin Marshall make up Renton’s dodgy mates, doubling as employers, girlfriends and mothers. 

It is very funny but cruel and disheartening – women are used, abused and taken for granted. When the pregnant girlfriend is kicked the humour has gone, the audience silenced.


At times you can’t understand a word that is spoken such is the Scottish brogue, but rather than rely on your ear you watch what unfolds and it doesn’t detract from the content – it just is. Calum Barbour is quite Shakespearean in delivery as he narrates the basics of getting a “hit”. 

The famous (from the movie) “toilet” scene is hysterical in its awfulness; no audience member is safe from the ranting. We witness overdoses, first time users getting hooked, babies that die. Yes it is shocking, but it is fringe theatre at its best. 

I teared up, I laughed and I left with a sore throat from all their shouting. Rather than it extolling the virtue of drugs it is implicit that anyone can become addicted and some can choose to change.

Sound design (Tom Lishman) is integral to the production with tracks from the Cure, Pink Floyd and the Beatles and sometimes just white noise. The lighting design (Clancy Flynn) is as harsh as the shouting by the actors and brilliantly used. Strobe lighting assisting in the shock of and subsequent death from getting hooked. 

Gritty theatre. Gird your loins and make the effort – it is well worth it.



Get all the content of the week delivered straight to your inbox!

Register to Comment
Reset your Password
Registration Login